Created & directed by Lauren Hlubny
Produced by Danse Theatre Surreality
Though occasionally heavy handed, Lauren Hlubny’s meditation on the challenges of contemporary life is both visually arresting and refreshingly unpredictable in its musical flights of invention. Even before the action begins, tension, albeit comedic in tone, is already palpable. The orchestra’s suit-waring horn section (Guy Dellacave, Josh Lang and Galo Morales), takes the stage like a cheerful boy band, currying applause from the audience. Called “Congress” in the show’s program, the guys represent the glad-handing element of our political culture. The string section, or “Activists” (Sergio Muñoz, Charlotte Munn-Wood, and Lena Vidulich), are clad in flowing clothes and skeptical expressions, sneering at what they see as the politicians’ insincerity.
After a turbulent overture, there we move to the small apartment of a young couple, Dana (Emma Factor) and Felix (Thomas Giles, who also composed the show’s searching and lively score). Poking gentle fun at millennial culture, the scene, cleverly written by Alexis Roblan, touches on a variety of trending social concerns from the environment to mental health. Clearly Dana want to make a difference, but it’s hard to know if starting an environmental vlog will do any good, and whether it’s okay to drink almond milk when there’s a water crisis in California. Dana and Felix will repeat the scene twice more, speaking the same lines but with a very different tone as they struggle to cope with mass shootings, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, government malfeasance and personal tragedy.
Luther Frank’s fluid lighting and scenic design combine with Tyler Barnett’s expressive costumes to create pictorially arresting framework for Hlubny’s choreography. Extremes of tenderness and violence, destruction and rebirth are expressed through a haunting series of tableaux, culminating in a tentatively optimistic denouement. As we watch the people from opposite sides begin communicate, using the language of music, we get the feeling all is not lost. Hlubny seems to be saying that, even in the midst of chaos and destruction, our better angels are still hard at work. Let’s hope she’s right.
THOUGHTS & PRAYERS ran from September 20-29, 2019 at TADA! Youth Theatre, 15 W 28th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10001. For information on upcoming shows click here: https://dansetheatresurreality.org/upcoming-performances.