Nearly pur­r­fect

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews - — Rob DeWalt

Beginning Fri­day, Feb. 26, lo­cal arts col­lec­tive Meow Wolf re­de­fined the pos­si­bil­i­ties of live the­ater in Santa Fe with its orig­i­nal mul­ti­me­dia pro­duc­tion ti­tled The Moon Is to Live On. A six-per­for­mance, two week­end res­i­dence (plus one im­promptu show on Thurs­day, March 4) at Ware­house 21 played to de­servedly sold-out audiences for the du­ra­tion of the show’s run.

Writer/ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Vince Kad­lubek and di­rec­tor Me­gan Burns are just two of many vi­tal pieces of this mag­nif­i­cently crafted heart­tug­ging and mind-bend­ing work, which in­cor­po­rates live per­for­mance, recorded video, live-and live-looped hand­held video, clas­sic black-box and ex­per­i­men­tal lighting, dance, and a so­phis­ti­cated in­ter­play of highly con­cep­tual cos­tumes and set de­signs.

The story ini­tially or­bits around 30-ish Old Spice em­ployee Robert Davis (David Loughridge), a mar­ried work­ing hump who— dur­ing and af­ter a se­ries of psy­che­delic and semi-prophetic dreams— be­gins to col­lapse un­der the weight of his own dis­sat­is­fac­tion with life. An un­sta­ble mar­riage to Caro­line (Bree Merk­wan) and the in­tro­duc­tion of a new and beau­ti­ful in­tern named Sum­mer (Amelia Stick­ney) at the Old Spice of­fice ramps up the home­bound ten­sion, which thank­fully never de­scends into do­mes­tic-strife par­ody— real housewives watch­ing their bi­o­log­i­cal clocks tick must also be prone to scream­ing at their flower beds. Joey, Steve’s friend and work col­league (Sean Di Ianni), wa­vers be­tween the role of con­fi­dant and sui­ci­dal bas­ket case and, while he serves as a gold mine of tragic cause and ef­fect, Joey also ac­counts for the bulk of Moon’s comic re­lief.

A secondary plot­line in­volv­ing Sum­mer’s “men­tor” (played ex­pertly by Kelly McDow­ell, a calm­ing pres­ence among so much au­dio­vi­sual may­hem) ex­plores themes of per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion and the al­lure of es­cap­ing the plane of ma­te­rial ex­is­tence— thus, per­haps, the play’s ti­tle.

The magic of Moon lies in Kad­lubek and com­pany’s abil­ity to stretch a com­mon swath of adult psy­cho­log­i­cal fab­ric (grow­ing older, search­ing for mean­ing, feel­ing cre­atively suf­fo­cated within the worka­day cul­ture) far be­yond a few walls and a stage. When pre­sented with so much ma­te­rial for the eyes and ears— black lights, fog ma­chines, LCD screens, ro­tat­ing sets, “Rain­bow Sym­phony” kalei­do­scope glasses, over­head pro­jec­tion, and il­lu­mi­nated masks— one may won­der, ini­tially, whether all this ex­tra win­dow dress­ing is de­signed to com­pen­sate for a weak script. That’s not the case. Kad­lubek’s writ­ing and his ac­tors’ de­liv­ery are su­perb across the board— al­though the sub­ject mat­ter is a bit re­moved from the world­view of younger teen audiences, and the show runs a bit too long (just over 165 min­utes, in­clud­ing a 15-minute in­ter­mis­sion).

What makes Moon one of the most im­por­tant pieces of lo­cal the­ater Santa Fe has seen in years, be­sides its abil­ity to leave its au­di­ence ei­ther speech­less or in tears, is the col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort among mul­ti­ple artis­tic dis­ci­plines that went into mak­ing the pro­duc­tion a seam­less and seem­ingly ef­fort­less af­fair. The de­but run of The Moon Is to Live On has ended. But in a per­fect ex­am­ple of life im­i­tat­ing art im­i­tat­ing life, Meow Wolf con­tin­ues its pur­suit of un­com­pro­mis­ing creative ex­pres­sion in de­fi­ance of the dull rep­e­ti­tion of the worka­day world.

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