The first several minutes has a nutty professor type à la Emmett “Doc” Brown from Back to the Future, darting around the stage in a long white coat, futzing around, talking to himself while putting out things, speaking into a tape recorder and rustling through a cabinet.
We later learn during a phone conversation with his mother, that he has a commission to create a performance piece based on the Longfellow poem. We also learn that he was born in England, grew up in the United States, and years ago had a daughter with a Korean woman in Japan. This child that he has never met has discovered her parentage and has been writing him letters. There are flashbacks and the action also shifts between New England and Japan.
There are dance sequences where the performers wear silver dolphin costumes for a dream scene. Later on they lip synch while wearing black wigs and red masks to The Pretenders’ “Middle of The Road” and wear white wigs for Icona Pop’s “I Love it (I don’t care)”. There’s also various Japanese pop music that is played.
Nothing is highly accomplished in terms of performance, and the narrative threads really don’t connect clearly, but there’s a warm-hearted tone throughout.
Renee Philippi’s writing has a literary quality and succeeds at being vague and open to interpretation as it conveys the plot. Ms. Philippi’s direction is rather stilted and rarely achieves visual interest.
Sook Kim and Eun Sung Lee are two personable performers who play the female characters, speaking in Japanese, Korean and heavily accented English. They also capably choreographed the show.
Carlo Adinolfi plays John, the performance artist. With his British accent and wiry physicality he has an intense presence but possesses limited charisma. Mr. Adinolfi’s simple but inspired scenic design with its aesthetically arranged white sheets and white bench and white cabinet with wigs provides a compelling landscape for the actions.
Casey McLain’s lighting design is a lively blend of strategic darkness, brightness and bursts of blue and red that vibrantly complements the events. The frenetic sound design by Eric Nightengale infuses it all with needed energy. Metallic tunics, white robes and animal representations are components of Maria Grande’s striking costume design.
Longfellow’s poem is an episodic affair derived from Greek and Latin classics transported to America. A young girl is separated from her beloved and spends her life searching for him. One could try to find parallels between it and this work.
Remembering Evangeline is presented by the Concrete Temple Theatre. Their mission “emphasizes the creation of compelling new theatre works, incorporating drama, dance, puppetry, and the visual arts, which focus on the individual’s struggle for identity and society’s struggle for cohesion.”
Here they have created something that is mildly entertaining but that doesn’t make much impact.
Remembering Evangeline (through June, 17, 2017)
Concrete Temple Theatre
HERE 145 Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.here.org
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission