City Paper is not for tourists
Dance Place: Brookland Artspace Lofts Studio (Tickets available here)
Sunday, July 12 at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at 12 p.m.
They say: A new musical written entirely in rhyming verse during one long distance phone call between Hermes, the messenger god and inventor of the first musical instrument, and Ariadne, a college student, as Hermes tries to write a song for her.
Molly’s take: In my experience as a theatergoer, one of the most difficult feats to pull off in performance is speaking in rhyming verse. It can so easily devolve into Dr. Seuss parody. By keeping its (winged-sandaled) feet planted firmly in the realm of Classical drama while allowing its head to reach into the modern world, composer/playwright Itai Yasur’s Awake All Night pulls it off. Keeping the spoken monologues brief to let performers Garrett Matthews (as the mythical Hermes) and Bailey Drew Lehfeldt (Ariadne) spend most of the show doing what they do best—singing—is what really makes Awake All Night well worth a ride on the Fringe shuttle bus to Brookland.
Matthews uses his bright, high baritone voice skillfully and brings a variety of vocal colors to his role. In the number “Blue Night Sky,” which seems to hit a vocal sweet spot, his voice suddenly fills the room. Lehfeldt’s clear, expressive soprano gleams throughout and truly soars in the anthemic “Thick Red Thread.”
The composer himself, Yasur, performs his high-energy music on piano; Samantha Hegre‘s cello lends warmth and legato to balance the texture. The score is replete with bright, open harmonies from the first downbeat, in which Apple’s ubiquitous “marimba” ringtone is cleverly built right in to the melody, to one of the final numbers in which the sweeping piano arpeggios bring to mind the sparkling music of Claude Debussy.
It seems like Awake All Night wants to be a treatise on the artist/muse relationship and the obsessive urge to create—Yasur quotes Pablo Neruda‘s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines, and name checks Frank Lloyd Wright and Van Gogh. But the piece is at its purest and most heartfelt when it lets go of the loftier themes and allows itself to simply be a breakup story. People have been fascinated by mythical gods for centuries not because of their power, but because of how their vulnerabilities make them more human. As Hermes and Ariadne slowly realize that they are not fated to be together, and that nothing will every change that, the two Olympians reveal their humanity, and their humanity is what draws us in.
See it if: You want to honor the music theater nerd within.
Skip it if: You expect Greek deities to stay on Mount Olympus where they belong.
Photo courtesy of Itai Yasur