MYSTICISM & MUSIC at the Constellation Theater Company

Jacob Yeh, Deidre Staples, Natalie Cutcher, Nia Savoy-Dock, Momo Nakamura, John Austin in the foreground

Welcome to Philosophy 101, with a music side. I imagine.

This is honestly how I felt watching this performance – as if I was back in Philosophy 101, I ended up jumping in favor of independent study to meet the requirements of the major. Except in this case, he was accompanied by overly loud drums and talented actors struggling to maintain the manic happiness they were clearly tasked with transmitting.

Mystic & Music is a new show from the Constellation Theater Company that attempts to help people deal with and overcome the pandemic through music and wisdom shared across cultures and ages. Before the performance, members of the public are asked to complete a piece of paper listing what they have lost or missed in the past 18 months; the show opens with the actors reading the responses, at an increasingly frantic pace, heightening the sense of overwhelming loss. The production then continues to get darker, with tales of death and destruction deepening that sense of grief. We then head to a catharsis, then come out the other side to pursue enlightenment.

While I understand what the intention of this production was, I feel like the series is really missing the mark. In large part, that’s because the show seems incredibly off-balance – more than half of the 55 minutes are spent on this descent into despair, and the catharsis and liberation are undeveloped and quickly overwhelmed in search of focused enlightenment. on the advice. to free all bonds and worldly concerns. The result is that the show transports audiences to a dark place and then essentially tells them to get over it and seek higher truths. This is especially off-putting because a number of the leaflets read referred to lost parents, jobs, and mental well-being – it seems rather callous to basically say “get over your grief and focus on research. of a higher sense in the universe ”(especially when we remember that we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and these losses are still fresh and ongoing). Of course, it works for some people (otherwise organized religion would never have taken off), but it also lacked the comfort or support that most structures of this state of mind provide. Much of this may be due to the fortune-cookie style wisdom through which this is passed; the entire production is made up of quotes from famous religious, political and literary figures. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the quotes are taken from a variety of religions and cultures, the way the production presents it feels more like a patronizing Ms. A wrinkle in time than to impart true wisdom. Somehow, despite using quotes as the only dialogue, this production manages to give the impression that it is constantly speaking to the audience; my partner even noted that she felt less preached during her 12 years in Catholic school.

BWW Review: MYSTICS AND MUSIC at the Constellation Theater Company
Tom Teasley, Chao Tian

On top of that, the production itself is also very dissonant. The show consists of two musicians (Tom Teasley and Chao Tian) and six actors (John Austin, Natalie Cutcher, Momo Nakamura, Nia Savoy-Dock, Deidre Staples and Jacob Yeh). It often felt like there were a few separate productions happening simultaneously, even when the cast was focused on the musicians, who were sitting in the center of the stage (well, off-center). While music can and should be a central point in a production like this, it sometimes felt like the actors and musicians were competing with each other rather than working together, and that sense made it more difficult to fully immerse yourself in the performance. Which is a shame, because Tian’s work on the Chinese dulcimer was enchanting, and Teasley’s instrument lineup was really fun to watch (I was especially intrigued to see the favorite waterphone as well as a beautiful shot). It’s possible that part of this disconnect came from the direction (the production was directed by the founding artistic director of the Constellation Theater Company, Allison Arkell Stockman), or the nature of the show’s more flexible format, but this was evident when looking at the performance of the particular distribution. . I’m lucky to have seen a number of actors featured in other productions, so I was really surprised to see them over-playing or maybe not convinced of their own effectiveness; sometimes it slipped and I had a glimpse of their actual skills, but for the most part the performances felt unusually forced. It was also surprising because I know a number of previous Constellation productions, and they are generally well balanced.

Having said that, I will note that the technical elements were for me the real stars of the production. The lighting crew (Light Board programmer Paul Callahan and Light Board operator Danielle Shaw) did a really excellent job – I loved the precise hits they got with the drums during the stage of the earthquake, and the lighting on the scarves used to create water and fire was absolutely thrilling. The use of fans throughout the performance was a nice touch that ran through the production, and Scenic Charge artist Gray Walters, as well as Carpenter’s crew (Alex Kozlov, Ben Harvey, David Phillip, James Raymond , Jeff Campbell, TJ Johns, Valarie McFatter, and William Koehler) deserve high praise for this striking and user-friendly set. Sadly, I have to note that the sound design was a bit off balance as well – one of the actor’s microphones got cut off, which can happen, but most notable was the fact that the cast’s and even Tian’s microphones were significantly inferior to those directed at Teasley’s drums. While percussion instruments are noisy by nature, there have been times when this difference was so pronounced that it was difficult to hear others. The percussion was not only the focal point of the show; he steamed the rest of the elements.

BWW Review: MYSTICS AND MUSIC at the Constellation Theater Company
Momo Nakamura, Natalie Cutcher, Nia Savoy-Dock, Jacob Yeh, John Austin, Deidre Staples

Unfortunately, the carnal sin of Mystic & Music it’s because he thinks it’s deeper than it actually is. It relies on platitudes and flash (or, to be more precise, crash) rather than doing any real work to reach out to community or deeper empathies. And that’s a shame, because he loses his soul in the process.

Constellation Theater Company Mystic & Music takes place in person until November 7 and on request from November 2 to December 31. Tickets are available on the Constellation Theater Company website for $ 20 per person (or home). Please note that this production features loud noises and flashing lights.

Photos courtesy of the Constellation Theater Company.

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