Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Waiting for Great Leader

The world is a diverse place with an abundance of philosophies on life. One of which is how a country should be ruled. There have been wars due to it. From democracy to dictatorship to communism, the will of the people is decided upon the authoritative powers. In A Presentation By the People of Lake Victory for Our Leader, written by Ethan Fishbane and directed by Fishbane and Phoebe Rose Sandford, the audience is giving a glimpse into the fictional land of Lake Victory, the last remaining Communist society.
In the eerie and intensely creepy experimental satire, the grin-induced denizens of Lake Victory present a preview of their proposed performance for the Great Leader, the revered ruler of the land. Led by a dominant minister of the bell, the eight citizens, near exact replicas of one another, offer a sample of the idealist life in Lake Victory. A Presentation By the People of Lake Victory for Our Leader plays like a propaganda film live. What we are watching is supposed to make you feel wholly uncomfortable. This society is not perfect and deep inside, these robotic souls are miserable. This is not a plot driven piece but there is a narrative. And that narrative comes from within the audience. Fishbane sets out to evoke a reaction. And he does just that. As the presentation comes to a close and the fate of Lake Victory is revealed, something inside sparks. And that is the emotional arc that this experimental piece offers.
To make this show tick, Lake Victory formed an imperative physical vocabulary. To hammer in the automatronic nature of this world, Fishbane and choreographer Phoebe Rose Sandford put physicality to the word terrifying. From the placement of the arms to the specific and intricate linear movement to that smile that will haunt your dreams, everything was perfectly creepy. Without this integral vision, A Presentation By the People of Lake Victory for Our Leader would go down in flames. It’s a rare example of the cohesiveness of a singular writer-director. Though having a choreography did aid in the vision.
To make this piece work, a unified ensemble is mandatory. Alenka Kraigher as the Timekeeper was the sole deviant of this world as the outside observer. Kraigher had such strength in her presence, you couldn’t help but feel uneasy as she moved through the ensemble. With the ding of her bell, Kraigher had sole control of these people. You can't pinpoint a great single great performance as this company, as required, moved as one. T. Adamson, Leah Barker, Matthew Brown, Stuart Green, Peregrine Heard, Clara Kundin, Nicolas Norena, and Allison Taaffe looked like the robots from Duloc with their rosey cheeks and not a hair out of place. Though you know they are extremely different individuals out of costume, together, they were perfect replicas.
The costume design by Barbara Begley and Lizzy Denning assisted in bringing unified terror to life. The uniforms each member was forced to wear were color coordinated to everything related to the production. Though at a glance they were reminiscent of boy scout uniforms, the green-blue and orange colorscape brought both hope and despair. The visual aspect of Lake Victory played such an important part of this production that graphic designer Denny Khurniawan should be recognized for his incredible work. Never has a program and ticket been so integrated into a production. The program and posters were beautiful takes on propaganda material. The graphic design even translated seamlessly into Frank Oliva’s scenic design. The orange back wall with an illustrated view of paradise was clean and striking. Perhaps the only issue the overall design of the production suffered was the light that sadly could not cast the entire stage. Lindsay Hope Simon was swift and in tune to the bell but Fishbane and Sandford utilized more stage than Simon had lights for.
This may not be everyone's cup of tea but you have to respect the artistry of the team involved. A Presentation By the People of Lake Victory For Our Leader will evoke something from inside whether you like it or not. Be proud of freedom. Don’t take it for granted.