Talk about bad timing. For many months, Redmoon Theater has been planning their yearly outdoor theatre spectacle, a fable set in a flooded-out community. For weeks, they’d been rehearsing on set pieces sunken in the lagoon, water up to the rooftops. Sound familiar?
The story eerily foreshadowed many of the events that came to pass when hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, and suddenly, as their artistic director states on the website “What once read as mythical and possibly even whimsical now reads as indelibly tragic.” So they did what any ambitious, creative, and socially aware theater company would do–they completely re-imagined their show.
I first learned about Loves Me…Loves’s Me Not on Saturday and saw it on Sunday. The audience was seated on the steps leading from the Museum of Science and Industry down to the shore of the Jackson Park lagoon (both created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.) Folks munched on picnic dinners as the sun set. The sixty minute production is performed, for the most part, in pantomime and uses the length of the lagoon, going all the way back to a bridge in the distance. Stage lights and torches illuminate the lagoon, a neat effect that enhances the mood and helps to transport the audience.
The story, such as it is, concerns survivors of a flood who eek out an existence living on the tops of buildings, with little shelter and meager provision. A very pregnant woman and her husband celebrate when he brings home a box full of canned food. A man atop a gas station plays a funeral dirge on a mouth organ (remember the dead body?) A trio of shrieking women who look like refugees from The Pirates of Penzance marvel at the pregnant woman.
Other characters float through: An accordion playing angel sings a lament from her swan boat; a party guy and his girl enter on a floating canopy bed draped with sausages (yeah, you heard me right) and lead a rousing musical dance party when they hook up with a party barge, complete with multi-piece band. And way back on the bridge, a strange vehicle carrying white draped figures shines a giant spotlight down on the scene to the sounds of thunder and rain. What does it all mean? Who knows.
The sets are fantastic, the acting is expressive, and the entire concept is impressive. The only thing lacking is a solid story as engaging as the setting is entrancing. It feels like, well, they put it together in a couple of weeks…which is exactly what they did, so you have to give them a lot of credit. Redmoon definitely gets an “A” for effort, and even if the plot is so abstract that when the play ends the audience doesn’t realize it’s over–which is what happened on Sunday night–it’s still absolutely worth seeing.
That kind of experience that is Loves Me…Loves Me Not doesn’t come along every day. Like a category 4 hurricane slamming into New Orleans, it’s (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event that gives you pause and allows you to reflect on some bigger issues.