A group of us braved the bitter cold last Saturday night to see Redmoon’s current production of Hunchback, their ultra-creative interpretation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you’ve seen any of Redmoon’s past productions, you know to expect the unexpected, and if you’ve never experienced this boundry-pushing theater troupe, I highly recommend you make Hunchback your introduction to their special brand of Chicago theater.
Hunchback is an energetic production, with actors leaping, jumping and climbing all over (and above) the stage. Large wooden crates serve as doorways, hiding places, platforms and a prison cell. A pair of metal scaffolds on wheels incorporate ladders that see-saw back and forth from which actors can climb, swing, hang and manipulate, effectively conjuring up settings from Notre Dame’s bell towers to a stockade and gallows. Sound effects and music complete the effect.
It wouldn’t be Redmoon without puppets and this production interweaves marionettes, shadow puppets, bunraku, and large-scale puppets to amazing effect. Masked actors portray Quasimodo, Esmeralda, her lover Phoebus, and the evil priest Claude Frollo; they alternate their roles with puppet counterparts, adding an interesting layer of self-reflection to the story. Occasionally, Victor Hugo hilariously butts in to provide context and critique the production. The acting is strong and the action brisk so the 80 minute play flies by.
The venue adds to the experience. Hunchback is staged in Redmoon HQ, a former ink factory on West Hubbard. Before and after the play, visitors are free to wander among set pieces and props from former Redmoon productions and afterward the company invites the audience to step on stage to walk among the ladders, see the puppets, and speak with the actors.
The show has been extended through Feb 3rd and tickets are still available so go, go, go!