Sunday, September 26, 2004

Whimsy As Ritual

After spending the afternoon out on one of those river boat architecture tours of the city (where a narrator turns your attention repeatedly to the left and right and to the many buildings and their histories, his comments laced with polished anecdotes generously laced with Catskills humor) Cathy, my Mom (Lou Lou visiting from the shores of Lake Erie) and I headed over to Millennium Park where we hastily made our way through chicken skewers and chips accompanied by a couple salsa’s and guacamole at the Park’s outdoor restaurant. There was music too. A large man saccharinely wafting his soprano sax along to prerecorded adult contemporary slow-jamz. When the audience applauded I imagined their clapping was really for an end to his playing then a continuation. But I was baffled, my mouth full of roasted mushroom, too turn in my seat and watch two men approach the large mans table of merchandise and contemplate his CD’s between thumb and forefinger, clearly athirst for more of his aloe soothing slow-jamz. The large man even walked over to them, taking his lips off his mouthpiece to offer a nod and, I imagined, a word of encouragement to those lured by his glassy-eyed melodies. I was baffled, but I wasn’t surprised.

We took a cab to Ping Tom Memorial Park in China Town to check out Redmoon Theater’s Sink. Sank. Sunk…


Like a lot of people I’m really fond of Redmoon Theater and what they’re about. They represent a kind of public art (and a belief in the transformative powers of such art) that always seems to cure me of wayward cynicism. I’ve yet to be anything but completely smitten by each of the productions (or as they more aptly call them, “Spectacles”) I’ve seen of theirs. The Winter Solstice shows, which I’ve been to 3 of, are especially magical- a kind of dream theater that manages to be silly, haunting, often times stunningly original and is almost always graced with endings that veer awfully close to the transcendent through the very force of their beauty. According to Redmoon’s press release, “Sink. Sank. Sunk…marks the first in a new Redmoon Theater series of annual site-specific Spectacles created to introduce audiences to undiscovered, often-overlooked Chicago locations, at no cost.” Given that kind of ambition, Sink. Sank. Sunk… was madly successful.

Sink.Sank.Sunk... is a Spectacle in the best sense of the word- an extravaganza, a pageant, a gala and a ceremony so that you’re never any less then wide eyed and captivated even if you have “no idea what’s going on.” Their Spectacle develops rhythms and motifs. Each time the El went by (and it passes very near to the park along with Amtrak and Metro trains) each performer would wave to it, their faces both inviting and quizzical as though it were something alive and sadly unable to stop and visit. A young girl who releases first one small white balloon and later, yet another, this time even larger, so that there’s actually an audible gasp of astonishment throughout the audience as we all crane our necks and marvel at the incandescence of the balloon framed against the last traces of twilight. The elegiac procession of candle lit boats along the South Branch of the Chicago River beginning with sirens (thanks to Chicago Police boats assisting on the river) and the magnificent rising of the 18th Street Bridge. It's more about atmosphere then anything explicit, conjuring moods rather then articulating anything specific.

My only criticism, and it’s a minor one, has to do with the sound system, particularly the speakers that were unequally disseminated and could have easily been distributed in a more effective way. I can only trust that a theater troop as adventurous and successful as Redmoon will quickly find a way to use and distribute sound at these outdoor events in a way more conducive to its objectives.

No comments: