Thursday, April 23, 2009

Red Fly/Blue Bottle


Music By Critina Campenella, Text by Stephanie Fleischmann; Directed by Mallory Catlett. At HERE Arts Center (CLOSED)

Red Fly/Blue Botte, the elusive new musical (of sorts) gets universally respectful notices. If there are no out-and-out raves, there are also no scathing pans. Everyone praises the beauty and detail of the production and the rigor of the direction, but feel it isn't quite concrete enough to completely captivate.

The New York Times B+
(Jason Zinoman) Written by Stephanie Fleischmann with moody, driving music by Christina Campanella, Red Fly — woven together with lyrical monologues, otherworldly videos and an ingeniously eerie set design by Jim Findlay — is a purposefully elusive work, a poetic meditation in which the hero, Clarissa, says pointedly, “Look closer.” It’s advice worth taking.... Like Gone Missing, the far more accessible downtown show by the Civilians, Red Fly is about loss and the extraordinary power of ordinary objects. (Wittgenstein’s quotation that the goal of philosophy is “to show the fly the way out of the bottle” was an inspiration for the production.) But this play’s otherworldly tone and ghostly mood rely less on reality than on the imagination.

Time Out NY B
(Helen Shaw) The title undersells it. The team that created the meticulous, moody work on view at HERE hasn't settled for a red fly and a blue bottle. They also crammed in plenty of dark songs and bright ideas, and—sadly, for the impatient among us—purple prose and green dramaturgy....Director Mallory Catlett is a mistress of detail, and as an installation, the piece exerts a mesmeric pull. But as a durational work? Fleischmann's mannered language ("flash of light, blitz of krieg") needs Campanella's music to be the piece's engine. Yet by chugging along at the same tempo, even the loveliest songs modulate into an unintentional lullaby.

Village Voice B
(Alexis Soloski) The nursery rhyme and lack of plot ought to make the piece maddening, but instead, it's sweetly strange. From elliptical imagery and approximate rhyme, director Mallory Catlett has conjured a complete, unique universe—with ample assistance from Miranda K. Hardy's lights, Jim Findlay's set, and Jeremy Wilson's live soundscape. Red Fly just might generate some buzz.

Offoffonline B
(William Coyle) Despite its dazzling technological work and fascinatingly creepy music, Red Fly/Blue Bottle sometimes becomes tedious, falling victim to its own preciousness and fable. The themes occasionally become bloated, as what exists of the narrative doesn’t have enough meat to sustain it. Yet, the sheer technical brilliance of its creators saves the day....Red Fly/Blue Bottle is another in a recent spate of bold experimental pieces that largely eschew plot and linear narrative in favor of challenging theatrical devices that foreground aspects other than text. This production will greatly reward both the novice and the connoisseur of new downtown theater.

Backstage B
(Ronni Reich)
Stephanie Fleischmann's words are intriguing but often oblique, and characters can seem overly precious as they devote themselves to tiny tasks. Director Mallory Catlett keeps performances almost blankly simple, compounding the sense of the set and music as primary. Campanella's compositions envelop the audience, with densely, dexterously woven textures often pulling together heavy rock rhythms, throwback sounds of a toy piano and an accordion, and elegiac cello and vocal patterns. Droning electronics saturate the space. Taken together, the often lugubrious, depressed songs can seem to drag, but each holds interest.

Theatermania B-
(Andy Propst) Red Fly/Blue Bottle, now at HERE, certainly is pretty to look at, and its blend of spoken word, black and white video, and song can be mesmerizing. But this 75-minute multimedia piece will disappoint and probably confuse those audience members looking for a traditional theater experience... the work as a whole doesn't fully succeed in spite of its exceptional design achievements.

NYT: B+ 11; BS B 10; OOO B 10; VV B 10; TONY B 10; TM B- 9; TOTAL: 60/6= 10 (B)

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