Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: A Synthesized Satircal Look Into the Future

The future of America: a favorite theme to explore in media. What will happen in the near but distant future? Will there be a Zombie Apocalypse or maybe purge of humans in a fight to the death or maybe the media will take control and regulate consumerism. The options are plentiful and a great jumping off point for new works. In the ambitious satire The Travels, the future of the Good Ol U. S. of A. is a colorful world where the face of the country spews lies about the most perfect place on Earth in attempts to maintain order.
Billed as an epic play with music, Aaron Ricciardi's piece, with music by Kelly Hoppenjans and lyrics by Ricciardi, we learn the country we love is no more. Virtually cut off from the rest of the outside world, Mr. Travels and his travel partner Warren appear on a television program that scares the citizens into thinking the same way and deciding what is right and wrong. Ricciardi's play is full-blown social commentary with a compelling concept. As the world slowly evolves, we meet an assortment of characters who reveal truths and lies. The play beings with grand comedy and musical interludes, never afraid for shock value. But as the comedy diminishes and the dramatic beings to take center stage, the intentions become transparent. Riccardi does a stellar job at offering clever parallels but the more pointed the parallels became, the less affective they were. Since it is technically a musical, Hoppenjans and Ricciardi's music was quite fun, capitalizing on the electronic music feel of the world. However the most daring move Ricciardi and director Travis Greisler made was with the ending of the show. After a big climatic change to the world the character's knew, the lights rise on the audience and one of the actors, perhaps out of character, offers a poignant address. And that's the end.  It is always very dangerous ending a musical without a song. Unless it's a moment that is well deserved, like in The Scottsboro Boys, a musical ending is almost essential.
photo courtesy of James Higgin
The colorful cast was a incredibly cohesive ensemble. Led by J. Anthony Crane and Luba Mason as Mr. and Mrs. Travel, both did a superb job with their grand characters. Matthew Patrick Quinn’s over the top expressions as Warren were wonderful, adding extensive layers by the end of the show. Holland Mariah Grossman created a brilliant sketch-like character with Teeny Travel. The peculiarities Grossman developed as Teeny added to the comedy of the world. Jamie Bogyo as the young, strapping, and na├»ve Adonis Perfect added a nice element of hilarity. His emotional turn toward the end was captivating.
Director Travis Greisler did a phenomenal job using the space with his innovative staging. Using the high-tech set Christopher Heilman created added a spark of curiosity, utilizing the absurdness to his advantage. Aided by the orchestrations, Greisler instantly set up the odd show-like atmosphere, forcing the audience to feel wonderfully uncomfortable. John Emmett O’Brien’s sound design was quite strong, adding to the bizarre feel of Ricciardi’s world. 
The Travels is a bold piece of theater. It's almost certain to be an audience polarizer. Untraditional works are scary but what's even scarier is if this is what America will turn into.