Though interesting to look at, Redmoon falls short of its full potential
|Redmoon Theatre presents|
Review by Clint May
No one goes to The Nutcracker ballet for the story. It’s all about the spectacle of many kinds of dance, grand costumes and pure athletic grace. There’s something about a little girl, a prince and a mouse king, but that’s hardly what anyone cares about. Similarly, the core of Redmoon’s latest Winter Pageant—an always different holiday offering—has the barest bones of a myth. A hero’s journey of sorts is the slim hanger upon which Redmoon drapes what is essentially a dance revue, a winter solstice themed tale of the rebirth of light in the midst of dark. Though it stays true to Redmoon’s steampunk oeuvre , it definitely favors its pageantry over poetry. Whether or not this is a concern is a matter of how sophisticated you expect your stories to be in relation to the spectacle.
When the Raven (Jay Cullen) decides he wants eternal night and cold, he robs the Tree of Light of its luminescence. Bereft of its guiding radiance, the other birds convene a conclave to find the bravest and wisest of them to seek out the legendary Phoenix (aerialist Helena Reynolds) to rekindle the Tree. The honor falls to one of the lowly Pigeon clan (Fernando Córdova of La Piara) of caretakers when the Tree gives an indisputable omen. There’s a journey, some strange encounters, a magic teapot and a forest spirit. Honestly I had little to no idea what was going on or why, as the pigeon and his dove companion (Kinnari Vora) travel somewhere and experience things that happen…for whatever reason things happen in a myth. Very, very loosely based on the Persian epic poem The Conference of Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar, the promo materials speak of themes of community, bravery and hope. However, without a coherent narrative, those themes are wholly consumed by style. Things happen in a dreamlike way, unattached to any arc and only existing to give an excuse for Redmoon’s trademark masks, puppets and machines. If you’re an adult trying to follow along, it’s baffling and not really worth the effort, even with the narrator’s infrequent intercession. If you’re younger, the sheer pageantry may be enough to entertain you for 50 minutes.
Even with the delightful and not inconsiderable talents of the many youth-oriented amateur dance troupes and The San Andreas Fault providing live music, the pageantry lacks sparkle. By the fourth reiteration of Pranita Jain’s choreographed dance interlude with different Lion King-esque masks, it seemed as though Redmoon wasn’t playing to its diverse strengths. Only a few minutes of shadow puppetry, a single song (beautifully sung by the narrator, who should have definitely done more), a stilt walking walkon, repetitive costuming, a Dr. Seussian-style percussion wagon—it all seems forced for its own sake and lacking in the transportive wonder that myths can create.
Recently moved from their Redmoon Central location on Hubbard three miles southeast to Pilsen, the new space affords an absolutely massive, multi-leveled arena. Some purely hygienic concerns invite some scrutiny, such as the slight echo such a large concrete space creates and some tight aluminum bleacher seating that may not be comfortable for all.
In a sea of holiday offerings that have found a way to balance the needs of children and adults, it becomes difficult to wholly endorse a show that seems skewed to a younger audience. The annual Redmoon Winter Pageant (and any of their seasonal pageants, really) has almost always been magical and unique and a hit with critics and audiences alike. They are bound to have ups and downs in their endless experimenting, and this time next year we will see another new offering that may blow this criticism out of the water. For now, this two week offering has limited appeal, and I’m already looking forward to spring.
Winter Pageant continues through December 22nd at Redmoon, 2120 S. Jefferson (map, directions), with performances Fridays 7pm, Saturdays 4pm and 7pm, Sundays 1:30pm and 4pm. Tickets are $25 (adults), $15 (kids 3-18), $10 (students), and are available by phone (312-850-8440 x123) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Redmoon.org. (Running time: 50 minutes with no intermission)
Photos by Al Zayed
Fernando Córdova of La Piara (Pigeon), Kinnari Vora (Dove), Helena Reynolds (Phoenix), Jay Cullen (Raven), Brennan Stacker (Raven’s right hand)
Redmoon artist interns
Jordan Kiehle, Steve Lieto, Tyler Lumm, Robin McKay, Erin Mitchell, Myra Su, Travis Trew, Leanne Turrell, Emily Wist
Anthony Apodaca, Yana Atim, claire Bauman, Jay Cullen, Antora De-Long, Micah Figueroa, Jeffrey Freelon, Bill Frisch, Ben Gojer, Tracey Green, Bridgette Hammond, Talia Lasko, Naomi Mark, Raven Moran, Brandon Moorehead, Kelly Nesheim, Coralyn Pedota, Glenn Potter, Julian Stacey, Andrew Tham, Katie Utke
The Happiness Club
Aerin Mitchell, Brandy Ford, Brianna Lucas, Chelsea Jordan, Deja Agee, Dominique Johnson, Iriana Young, Iyonna Young, Kaina Castillo, Paige Pohlad, Sarah Stearn, Thomas Canty, Tanji Harper, Joel Langford
Indonesian Dance of Illinois
Sandra Azubuike, Peter Colina, Pak Jgurah Kertayuda, Sagung Mirah Kertayuda, Dan Nicky, Mariyam Torres
The Kilapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts
Kirthi Bellamkonda, Anu Bhatt, Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Akanksha Dar, Ashley Fargnoli, Bhavya Narra, Arial Toole, Priya Narayan, Jackie Pojasek, Preeti Veerlapati, Kinnari Vora
Pineapple Dance Studio
Erika Ochoa, Viktoria Mitlyng, Jessica Sittig
The San Andreas Fault
Rob Warmowski, Peter Muschong, Thymme Jones, John Cwiok
behind the scenes
John Musial (Director, Space Layout) with Will Bishop (Production Manager), Frank Maugeri (Producing Artistic Director, Space Design, Space Layout), Rob Warmowski (Music Composer), Seth Bockley (Lyricist and Songwriter), Claire Sangster (Lighting Design), Andrew Rovner (Sound Engineer), Pranita Jain (Choreography), Al Zayed Photography (photos)