Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Red Shoes joyfully tramples all under foot

Photo by Ron Ravensborg.
Joel Sass has found kindred spirits at Open Eye Figure Theatre.

The two seem like naturals. Sass' inventive stagings and oft off-kilter work matches perfectly with Open Eye's sense of outlandish adventure, often in tiny sizes. Those shared interests certainly come to a head in The Red Shoes, Sass' masterful deconstruction of a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

There's no fairy kingdom here. Instead, we get a gritty, film-noir-like take on the tale, as a single woman holes up in a grungy-beyond-grunge apartment.

There, hemmed in by a nosy landlady, an eager-beaver delivery boy, and a mysterious woman in a trenchcoat, she endlessly recounts a murder that may have taken place in the same apartment, with occasional breaks to put on her red shoes and, as David Bowie tells us, dances the blues.

That all of these characters are brought to life by Kimberly Richardson (with the aid of several puppeteers and body doubles) just adds an extra layer of theatrical spice. Her nimble physicality and ability to shift from broad humor to tense drama to outright terror in a matter of moments is put through the full test here.

Now tack on Sass' own sense of invention and play. His set is full of clever nooks and crannies that both aid Richardson's quick changes, but deepen the word. Of course the landlady speaks through a pipe with a flapping valve for a mouth. Of course the tiny diorama that Richardson uses to reenact the mysterious crime is the apartment writ small. Of course the various clues and newspaper articles on the wall move and change as the play unfolds, serving as title cards for each scene in the play.

It's a delirious, giddy, enthralling, terrific piece of theater that isn't going to make complete sense without some thought after. Even then, the exact meaning is somewhat obscured. So be it. Life in the big city doesn't always make sense, even when you are dressed to kill with your best red shoes on.

The Red Shoes runs through March 25. Visit online for more information.

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