Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oceana, A Musical, Vortex Repertory, May 9 - June 3

There is, indeed, an oceanic feel to the staging of this production.
Arriving spectators are welcomed by undulant costumed young persons bathed in blue and green lights designed by Jason Amato. The actors are welcoming, slithery, playful and exotically costumed. Director/author Bonnie Cullum extends the compact playing space of the Vortex vertically, transforming it at times into the visual equivalent of an aquarium. She stations her three singing sirens on a high shelf across the back, with the band mostly out of sight in the grotto below them.

Steel gym rings hang just out of reach of the front rows on either side of that V-thrust stage, and the sleekly muscular merpeople regularly hoist themselves fluidly up and around those swaying fixtures. Anyone with scuba diving experience recognizes at once the promise of liquid flight and freedom from gravity that they evoke. As well as the surprise and satisfaction of coming face to face with schools of fishy creatures -- the cast numbers 14, and most of them are somewhere on that compact stage throughout the presentation.

Cheerful mischief marks these goings-on. For example, I had placed myself in the front row; one of those swinging mer-guys reached down, and with a flick, untied my shoelace. While the characters spoke with mythic seriousness, they often moved in poses, prances, and postures, emphasizing their otherworldliness.

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