Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Elementals: Water by Bonnie Cullum and Chad Salvata, choreography by Tony Bravo, Vortex Repertory, August 31 - September 30

ALT review
Elements - Water Vortex Repertory Austin TX
(image: Kimberley Mead)

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

I bought my ticket and sat in the outside coffee bar, The Butterfly Bar, at the Vortex before seating was called. Late summer concerns seemed to run forcefully to West Nile virus in Texas, as every mode of mosquito repulsion was in full application on the deck as the Saturday night crowd assembled.

Inside, these cares buzzed away forever with the first glimpse of the set. Upstage center a waterfall fell like liquid plate glass, perhaps twelve feet high. It sparkled and splashed continuously throughout the show, flowing into a shallow oval pool, which took up the rest of the stage. The dancing took place in this water, of course -- how could we expect anything less? The set credit goes to Ann Marie Gordon, with Kenneth Gall as Water Master. Jason Amato’s lights played off the waterfall, danced in the pool and bubbled through agitated water globes fixed to the ceiling. The variety of his lighting sets through the show seemed without limit and formed a masterfully imaginative set of designs in light.

And imagination is a keyword for the entire show. It began with two figures suspended in nets before the sheet of water and above the pool. They were motionless, restrained figures in containers. The image from anywhere in the theatre was one of fetuses afloat in the oceanic water of the womb. This tableau was set before a sonic background of trance-hypno-type music, and after a few minutes I definitely felt that I was in a trance. The music credit was given to Chad Salvata. Salvata is an almost shamefully under-recognized leader in composing and arranging in Austin theatre. His choices are quite often unusual and unexpected, but they almost always serve the total production. His work in Water was surefooted and flawless.

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