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|
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.