Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cleveland Public Theatre: Akarui [Bright]

Cleveland Public Theatre, presenting world premiere of playwright Jen Silverman's Akarui now through June 9th, always manages to pack in surprises.
Photo: Steve Wagner/Courtesy CPT
Akarui is no exception -- a mix of stories and fables, pounding music and drama -- with settings ranging from an American bedroom to Baba Yaga's chicken hut and a rave cave "at the end of the world" is a compelling story of acceptance and the power and right to change.

Aside from phenomenal acting -- which I'll get to in a moment -- the set, lighting, and sound design were all among the best of those productions in recent (and not so recent memory) effectively and creatively supporting the story without being intrusive and a completely believable portal to another dimension through the theatre's proscenium.

I don't do blood, guts, or surgery well -- I'm known to pass out with detailed descriptions -- but typically with plays I'm able to put it aside as fiction without problem. At one point near the end of Act I, Akarui's story combined with persuasive acting had me feeling a little lightheaded (and Rachel asking "are you alright...?")

Photo: Steve Wagner/Courtesy CPT
Beth Wood's demented portrayal of Baba Yaga [yes, the same Baba Yaga as also appears in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition] as mad scientist kicked the action off to an amusing start and her appearances throughout rarely left without a worried chuckle ("Why do you insist on torturing yourself when I'm already torturing you?" perhaps being my favorite line from the show) -- but compelling didn't end there.
A DJ (Chris Siebert) watches over and occasionally guides the happenings. Each of the interlocking stories is a character undergoing change -- female to male, alive to dead, manta ray to man -- and struggling with acceptance, of their own status and as well as their status as seen by others -- before arriving at a rave "at the end of the world". And that rave is full of energy that spills out into the audience.

About two hours including an intermission, the show's pacing and overlapping stories held even my attention and it felt only about half as long.
(Directed by Raynond Bobgan, Cast: Chris Siebert as DJ Akarui, Beth Wood as Baba Yaga, James Alexander Rankin as Joshua, Molly Andrews-Hinders as DC, Davis Agulla as Fish/Manta Ray, Richard Brandon Hall as Mateu, Lew Wallace as Stack, Dionne D. Atchison, Roxana Bell, Carly Garinger, Fay Hargate, Jeremy Paul, Amy Schwabauer, Adam Seeholzer, Rose Sengenberger as Chorus; Todd Kripinsky, set design; Alison Garrigan, costume design; Benjamin Gantose, lighting design; Chris Siebert, pervussion coach; Michael Roesch and Raymond Bobagn, sound design; Richard Brandon Hall, choreographer; Danielle Case, production stage manager; Jennifer Caster, assistant producer)

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