The Week (US)

Animal Wisdom


“For a work that often talks about dead people, there’s an Olympian-sprint vitality to Animal Wisdom,” said Celia Wren in The Washington Post. A cabaret-séance hybrid created by Obie Award–winning musician Heather Christian and filmed to stream to home audiences, the remarkable show acknowledg­es mortality, but does so “with ecstatic liveliness.” Roaming Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Christian “holds confident sway” as a narrator who tells us that she comes from a line of New Orleans women who could see ghosts and she now wants hers gone. But her musical monologue is restless, darting among topics as varied as invasive species, the supernatur­al properties of Coke, and God’s favorite musical time signature. The camerawork and bare-bulb set heighten the uncanny effect, making the show “a virtual Ouija board for artistic communion.”

Christian’s character has “the occasional­ly incomprehe­nsible charisma” of someone you might meet at a late-night party, said Zachary Stewart in TheaterMan­ But her story is riveting, and each song she sings “a little masterpiec­e.” Backed by a choir and band, Christian shifts from blues to gospel to folk, casting a spell that’s broken only when the group ventures out to the theater’s well-lit lobby. No one, though, will be unstirred by Christian’s 20-minute, gospel-style requiem mass, for which she requests that viewers close their eyes. “I heard a rousing Kyrie Eleison, a hair-raising Dies Irae.” I also may have glimpsed musical theater’s future. As stages open up across the country, many no doubt will be eager to reserve time and space for Christian’s “special brand of magic.” From $19, woollymamm­, through June 13

 ??  ?? Christian communes with the spirit world.
Christian communes with the spirit world.

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