Directed by Jeff Colangelo
Co-Directed by Katy Tye
Lighting and Set by Jonah Gutierrez
Hand to Hand Choreography by Katy Tye
Dance Choreography by Hope Endrenyi
Fight Choreography by Jeff Colangelo
Live Music by Fabricio CF
Recorded Music by Seun Soyemi
Magic Consulting by Trigg Watson
CAST (in order of appearance)
Adam A. Anderson
Reviewed Performance 4/10/2015
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“People may not always believe what you say, but they will always believe what you do.” – Lewis Cass
Exactly one year ago I had the privilege of reviewing Galatea, a show presented by PrismCo, that had not one word of dialogue. It was the most creative, innovative and exciting theater piece I had seen in a long time and I quickly spread the word to friends and colleagues about the production. Everyone who reported back to me raved about their experience and so it was with great excitement that my wife and I entered the Big Green Warehouse in Trinity Groves to see their new show, Prism. We were not disappointed.
The Trinity Groves Warehouse is an enormous space that might be an intimidating place in which to perform. PrismCo takes that enormity and uses it to their advantage, filling it with image after image of pure creativity. Art installations surround the outer edges, and when we arrived one of the artists was doing a presentation about her work. This is a place for risk, creativity, and vision and so seems the ideal spot for a work like Prism.
Where Galatea was confined by walls of the environment created specifically for that show, and literally covered with sheets, wadded up, and shredded paper, as well as drawings, costumes and aerial silks, by contrast, Prism is completely bare and empty, appropriate for a cosmos from which new and exciting creations might emerge. Costumes are basic black and then white. Set and Lighting Designer Jonah Gutierrez has chosen to let the space set the stage. A sculpture looking rather like a bonfire is up center, and whether this is part of the design or an installation is not clear, but it works. Boxes hang down right and the floor is painted with strange designs while the acting space flows into the installations surrounding it. Where the seating for Galatea was close and intimate, the seating for Prism is in three long rows echoing the large space.
The show is about creation and discovery and this is made visual by using only the bodies of the performers and a few props –and paint! The biggest difference between the two pieces is that while Galatea was in narrative form based on a familiar myth, Prism’s approach to myth seems more spontaneous and almost haphazard - in a good way. In speaking of using myth to get at a greater truth, Co-Directors Katy Tye and Jeff Colangelo explained Prism to Lance Lusk in a Theater Jones interview as “…a basic creation myth…everything starts in darkness, and then light is made, and then the first two of something is made, and from there everything is populated.”
The show does indeed begin in darkness with wonderful recorded sounds by Seun Soyemi. A flashlight’s beam points to the skittering fingers of Kristen Lee as she/the creature begins to explore the space, including other performers. Evolution begins. Other performers make sounds, sing a simple wordless melody and use pieces of reflective metal as mirrors and percussive instruments. Flashlights, carried by the cast, create patterns, reflect off the mirrors and even manage to evoke emotions with light, reflection and simple sounds.
I kept thinking “childlike” as I watched the show. The troupe manages to capture the innocence and joy of new experiences, and later their sometime residual pain. As the evening progresses, discoveries are constantly being made - discoveries of light, darkness, environment, other beings, and finally color and play - that evolves into aggression. It is rather like playing with finger paints, re-discovering simple tactile and visual possibilities. Erratic, lyrical, like a prism itself, reflecting light and color in different directions, moving and never static.
This is truly an ensemble piece, created by the company under the guidance of Colangelo and Tye. In Buster Spiller’s interview for Broadway World.com, Colangelo and Tye explain the collaboration like this: “So we ended up making a show that incorporated paint, mirrors, flashlights, dancers, actors, musicians, and visual artists…” Kaysy Ostrom, Adam A. Anderson, Dean Wray, McClendon Giles, Hope Endrenyi, and Claire Carson each work as part of the ensemble, yet somehow bringing individuality to the evening.
Stepping out of the ensemble, Tye and Kamen Casey are the two first individuals (Adam and Eve?) that discover each other and proceed to visually elaborate on that discovery through a lovely and emotional weight-sharing presentation that says far more than dialogue alone ever could.
Hope Endrenyi, Prism’s dance choreographer, and Seun Soyemi have a shorter duet dance/movement piece that is just as fascinating to watch. Fabricio CF and his violin become involved with the wordless singing, picking up the melody and expanding on it, commenting on the action and becoming another element of creation. Perhaps one of the most commendable results of this collaboration is how attuned all the performers are to each other. The focus is laser-like, keeping the audience riveted. While a made-up language is used at one point, the expressiveness of the bodies and movement patterns tell us all we need to know. Like Galatea, there is no conventionally understandable spoken dialogue.
Color is introduced through a clever and exciting device I won’t divulge, and the twenty foot square canvas that has been spread on the floor becomes a playground, and then as their play turns to aggression, the battlefield. With Josh Porter leading the “red hands” and Kamen Casey the “blue hands,” confrontation between the two groups and then the two men begins. (Cain and Abel?) Colangelo’s fight choreography is, as always, effective and exciting to watch and Mr. Porter and Mr. Casey are utterly believable as antagonists while still managing to keep an almost dance-like feel to the battle. By the end of both the battle and the show, a large painting has been produced by the action on the spread canvas and will be hung in the gallery. The one from the show’s preview was hung on the back wall. Caution: if you choose to sit on the front row, you’ll get to participate in the paint war, but wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting spattered!
If the show doesn’t excite quite as much as Galatea did, it’s because the novelty is no longer there. But Prism, while using many of the same tools, is such a different show that seeing the growth and the breadth of the expressiveness of this troupe is very rewarding. And for those who did not see Galatea, it will no doubt be a revelation in theatrical communication.
According to legend, St. Francis says, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” PrismCo is fortunately here to preach the gospel of an alternative form of theater, one of collaboration of all art forms, the whole body and the sounds and shapes of which it is capable, resulting in exciting and fresh presentations. Let’s hope this group will find many followers for its message and, through action, keep on spreading their unique and beautiful gospel of the human experience.
The Big Green Warehouse (Trinity Groves Warehouses)
425 Bedford St.
Dallas, TX 75212
Runs through April 26th
Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday, April 26th at 8:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00 each, $15.00 for students, and $15.00 for industry on Sunday.
For tickets and information go to www.prismco.org