Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First preview of HEPHAESTUS

I've already seen this show before, but all of the publicity for it was all about "we're in a bigger space with a higher ceiling. That means we will make it MORE AWESOME" so I decided to check it out again. Well, for the most part there's not an appreciable difference- and there are some things they had the last time I saw it that were missing this time that was pretty disappointing. If you've never seen it before, you should see it at some point- that's a given. Since it was first preview, I spent a lot of time noticing the odd little things that go wrong at a first previews- and let me tell you, that's a LOT more interesting/terrifying for this show because if something goes wrong someone can get hurt. Examples of things I noticed (sorry, this is just how my brain works. it's a curse):

-During the sea nymph scene, one of the nymphs was having a LOT of trouble with her fabric. I don't know enough about that type of circus (is that Spanish Web? Maybe?) to know what exactly was up, but she had to drop out of unison with the other nymphs while she was staring at and repeatedly working the fabric, like she was looking for a particular spot on it, or trying to get it in the right position. I was kind of worried for her (this all happens pretty high off the ground!), but she managed to sort it out and rejoin the rest of them by the end of the number.
-For the first drum sequence, one of the drummers was late for his entrance, and they had to wait for him.
-For some reason it took FOREVER for them to bring the second Silver Man out of the pit. Maybe there was a problem with the rigging?
-The sunglasses worn by the guy who rolls around in the giant metal ring fell off. He had to kick them under the audience risers before he could keep going.
-Later in the show, two of the ladies dressed as Silver Girls bounce down on bungie cords from trapezes, handing off pieces of the chair used for the final feat. One of them had trouble getting enough rebound to get back up to her trapeze- she whiffed it several times while the other girl was already back on her perch.
-The final feat- will they always talk to each other that much? Don't get me wrong- if they need to, they need to, and it's still damn amazing even if they talk.

Things I miss from the last time:
-The last time I saw it, one of the Silver Men gets 'electrocuted' or something during his creation, and he becomes the sort of broken, crazy one who does all these kickass break dancing moves. He wasn't in this version- the corresponding Silver Man in this production is played by an actress, who does some pretty neat flips but I found the previous version to be more impressive.
-The Aphrodite in this version is a contortionist and a pretty good en pointe ballerina. But the lady from the last time did this jaw-dropping stuff with hula hoops as well as being absurdly flexible. I miss the hula hoops, dammit!

However, there is one thing they do that is jaw droppingly more awesome than the last time I saw it- the final high wire feat has a whole new layer of people added, so it's even more thrilling. It's very impressive and on its own might justify seeing this again to someone who's already seen it.

The lights and sound, while still being tinkered with, remain extremely impressive (sorry, that's a word I use a lot in referring to this show, even when critiquing it). My favorite two light effects:
-During the Iris (the goddess of the Rainbow) scene, many of the gelled lighting instruments are actually arranged in ROYGBIV order.
-When Hera is playing with her new throne, they use her body as a canvas for this incredible light display- it looks as if she's made of light, or filled with a bunch of large fireflies or something. I thought that was awesome.

Last, I guess I can talk about the story. They're pretty faithful to the original myth (and trust me, that matters to me a whole lot- see my rant about Clash of the titans). But the myth is, of course, just a justification for the circus feats on display. None of the main characters even have dialogue. That said, one moment I always find supremely moving is when Hephaestus first falls in to the ocean and crawls onto land. His desolation at being so completely abandoned by his mother is really affecting. So hooray for emotional truthfulness in a circus show!

Anyway, thanks Lookingglass for continuing to tell stories and do shows that matter to me. I criticize because I love. Now just get Mary Zimmerman to do a new adaptation once she's done with Candide, darn it!

P.S.- the Owen seating chart they have online is a vicious LIE. I made a point of trying to get what the seating chart says is an aisle seat (AAA 54, if you must know) but when I actually went to take my seat it was smack in the middle of a row! Grrr. At least the house had enough empty seats that I could move.

No comments: