Thursday, July 08, 2010

Underground Zero: The Ring Cycle (pt 1)

The mythology of epic fantasy already comes across as sort of a cheesy thing--is recasting the entire thing as an 80s wrestling match really the best idea? Well, it doesn't exactly hurt the first part of Wagner's Ring Cycle (Das Rheingold); it just doesn't add much. Wotan (Jeff Clarke) has long stringy hair, a grizzly beard, tights and thick boots, and thick visor-like sunglasses with feathers on them, and he's got a big, booming voice to go with that flesh-colored muscle suit he's wearing. Cathy (Sara Buffamanti), the ringside interviewer, fills us in on his situation as his wife, Fricka (Rachel Jablin), starts weeping over the loss of her sister, Freia (Rebecca Lingafelter), whom Wotan has handed over to the giants Fafner and Fasolt (Christopher Hirsh and Michael Melkovic) in return for their labor in building Valhalla. Given how little sense that makes in the first place, especially since Freia's the only person able to grow the golden apples that keep the gods immortal and strong, it might as well be turned up to eleven.

Of course, your enjoyment of Dave Dalton and Jeremey Beck's adaptation is reliant upon a love of camp, especially as the fey Loge (Christopher Ryan Richards) starts prancing through a flashback and the pathetic dwarf Alberich (Marty Keiser, admirably giving his all) starts leaping around like a flabby luchadore. Much is dependent upon Casey Robinson's fight choreography, too, but it simply isn't all that impressive--especially compared with the higher-budgeted fights from The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity or the similarly scoped but far more impressive Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage. "Ballroom Blitz" is a good song for a fight, but it's--at times--more captivating than the fight itself.

Still, there's a lot of heart and passion coming from the Performance Lab 115 team, and the show finds a much-needed second wind with its postmodern critique of the gods--a Super Fan (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) pops out of the audience and disgustedly flings his Wotan shirt into the ring, his faith destroyed by seeing a so-called hero turn into a relentless heel. The play seems to dismisses this insight all too quickly, preferring the easy job of transposing the rest of Wagner's cycle onto the mat, ending as Fafner kills his brother and runs off with the cursed ring. What is superficially entertaining for fifty minutes hardly seems large enough to keep the audience coming back for their promised second part; hopefully, PL115 finds something more to do with this schlock as they continue to develop the piece.

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