ArtsEmerson's "Grand Parade": Passed By

The Cast of "Grand Parade"
(photo: ArtsEmerson)

The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)” is the creation of a company from Ashfield, MA known as Double Edge Theatre, and this work is certainly that. It's a double-edged surreal collage of one hundred years of our common mythology, inspired by the art of Marc Chagall. It's quite a trip, encompassing memories and memorials of such elements as the first lunar landing, the escape artistry of Houdini, the discovery of the atomic bomb, and the JFK assassination. According to the company's Artistic Director Stacy Klein, the members of the troupe who created it viewed the past American Century as one of cataclysm and destruction; they tried to reflect this history through their own eyes as the sole means of speaking to their desires for the future. They attempted a dialogue with their future as being both simple and profound, “a choice between destruction and creation”. It ended up a bit of a mishmash of individual and collective memory of their experiences, said to be based on their investigation of Homer's Odyssey, though there wasn't any clear evidence as to this influence.

The co-creators and performers of this piece were Carlos Uriona, Matthew Glassman, Hayley Brown, Jeremy Luise Eaton, Adam Bright and Milena Dabova. It was Conceived, Designed and Directed by Klein, with Music Composition by Alexander Bakshi, Sound and Projection Design by Brian Fairley, Technical Design and Direction by Adam Bright, Music and Vocal Direction by Lyudmila Bakshi, and Lighting Design by John Peitso. The Wood Scenery Design was by Jeff Bird, Mask Design by Beckie Kravetz and Puppet Design by Carroll Durand, Sarah Cormier and Nancy Milliken. All were competently accomplished, but the only standout was the Costume Design by Amanda Miller. There was also a four piece band and, at the performance attended, a fine guest vocalist, Morgan Williams.

One expected better and more immersive visual theater. Lamentably, this was not up the exacting standards of professionalism exhibited during this past season of ArtsEmerson productions. There were a few brief inspired moments (the quiet solemnity of the earliest days of the AIDS crisis, the toppling of the Berlin Wall) but by and large the effect was one of a somewhat superficial listing of unrelated events. It didn't help that the mimicry of such events was flat and amateurish. The company is to be commended for attempting to cover such a vast expanse in such a brief span of time. The program lasted just under an hour and was with us just over the weekend. One hoped to be inspired, as the song “Before the Parade Passes By” puts it, to feel one's heart coming alive again. Unfortunately, this “Grand Parade” merely passed by.

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