Company Creation Festival 2016
Reviewed by Lyle Zimskind
Son of Semele Ensemble
Through February 14
Through February 7
“Our philosophy is this,” affirms the Rook Theater, one of four fledgling Los Angeles performance groups participating in Son of Semele’s sixth annual Company Creation Festival. “If we have fun, so will you.”
It’s a dubious premise. Would you make social plans with someone whom you know feels this way about your evening? The Rook company’s new show, Andy’s World, is less a play than a theater exercise, one that its creative performers probably enjoyed developing. The unprocessed product of their initiative, though, is not quite fare for a public audience.
A couple months ago, director Alex Suha met individually with his three fellow cast members and emerged from each encounter with the building blocks of a story. Andy’s World is the fusion of these separately conceived theatrical ideas. Working without the road map of a script (no playwright is credited), the ensemble let their impulses determine the show’s ultimate form. In a program note, Suha recalls one of their operating questions as “This’ll work, right?” He goes on, “Of course, most things do as long as they come from a caring, interested center.”
The group put the whole production together within a time frame compressed enough to prevent them from “second guessing” their choices. Like second guessing is such a bad thing. Who knows what might have emerged from the elements that the cast initially came up with — a creeping arm without a body named Andy, a harmlessly deranged young man who attributes imperial powers to a small furry creature, a pair of romantically ambivalent late-middle-aged moms (one of them performed in drag). Imagine if they’d been exposed to an authorial or dramaturgical filter? The results might have been interesting instead of self-indulgent.
The Dryway: A Merfolk Opera
Through February 14
The age-old legend of the mermaid Melusine and her sisters, Melior and Palatine, is source material for the other Festival production we’ve seen so far: writer-director Emma Zakes Green’s new musical The Dryway, produced by her own Outpost theater company. Expelled by their mother from the oceanic realm where they’d always lived, the trio wash up on dry land outside a desert motel bar (this last element isn’t in the original myth), where they’re compelled to adapt to the unfamiliar, far less exalted world of men.
The most enjoyable moments in this show are the frequent songs written by Green and music director Paul Fraser (with an assist or two from Johnny Cash). Their sophisticated three-part harmonies are winningly performed by the cast of A’Raelle Flynn-Bolden, Megan Rippey and Green and gently enhanced by Kestrel Farin Leah’s choreography. In spoken segments the three mermaid sisters only address the audience in monologue, never speaking to each other during their shared adventure. This narrative device does create a sense of lyricism, but diminishes the drama of their predicament.
Still, by the end of Dryway the ultimate choice that the mermaid sisters face — whether to continue evolving in their new world or return to their beloved home and forget their earthly interlude entirely — is moving and palpable. Set designer Drew Foster and lighting designer Alexander Freer create a milieu that is consistently atmospheric, and all three performers render evocative and sympathetic merfolk.
Son of Semele Ensemble, 3301 Beverly Blvd. (at Hoover), Westlake. Sonofsemele.org.
Andy’s World: Sat., Feb. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 7, 5 p.m. http://www.sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2016.html#prod-details. Running time: 1 hour.
The Dryway: A Merfolk Opera: Sat., Feb. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 5 p.m. http://www.sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2016.html#prod-details. Running time: 1 hour.