Studio Theatre/1927 The Animals and Children Took to the StreetsBy Genie Baskir • Jun 12th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Through July 1st
Reviewed June 10th, 2012
How many times has it been said that there is nothing new to do, nothing new to create, no new musical note combinations to compose, no new anything to conceive? How many revivals must an audience endure because there is not enough creative and financial nerve to demand that audiences take up the challenge? How does one do justice to an illusion when there are no words to fittingly describe what one has just seen? How do you describe the indescribable?
A company dripping with affection for the past has taken that past and created a 21st century delight imbued with irony, humor and beta movement; an homage to Fritz Lang, “The Jazz Singer,” Max Fleischer, F.W. Murnau, Robert Wiene, artistic surrealism, “The General” and maybe the Columbine Mine Massacre with a little bit of anti poverty polemic and contemporary childhood management policy thrown into the mix. The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is a scrumptious effort by the totally original English company, 1927, now in residence at The Studio Theatre and words are elusive in the effort to impart the visual and aural sensations of this masterpiece.
The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is a large installation, really, with three actors, four voices and a large ensemble and moving set that are actually projected animations at 24 frames per second to accommodate recorded music in the style of a 1927 talkie; and the remarkable ability to turn three-dimensional actors into two-dimensional illustrations in front of our very eyes. The exactitude of the timing, both in the animation and the actors’ live action within and without the animation, is a marvel of patience and dedication. The actors are also the conceivers of this allegory and keep the animated action flowing through animated roaches and skinks prowling the walls of the buildings on Red Herring Street. The constantly crawling critters and the meticulous detail of the moving illustrations behind and in front of the actors induce the viewer to question what he or she may be seeing. It is impossible to describe what there is to be seen in this show. The delectation is not imaginable in the traditional sense of theatre; this show must be seen to be believed.
The story is a fable reminiscent of Lang’s “Metropolis” which my reader knows is one of my favorite films. The city is a shining beacon on the hill and everyone who matters is happy there. But, like every other shining beacon on the hill, this city has its dark underside; a place that exists but doesn’t matter because it is not in the purview of the citizens of the shining beacon. That place is called The Bayou and that is where Agnes Eaves and her little daughter, Eavie, move to save the children of The Bayou by giving them art lessons. Meanwhile, the criminal Mrs. Villycar’s delinquent daughter, Zelda, foments a revolt by The Bayou children in the heart of the beautiful city. The Mayor appoints the Minister of Quick Fix solutions to do something about the criminal children of The Bayou and that solution is the cornerstone of 1927’s social commentary. Caught up in this maelström of events is the little damsel, Eavie Eaves, who must be rescued from the Ministry of Quick Fix solutions and reunited with her virtuous and saintly mother. A Gish sisters/Mary Pickford motif is presented by Esme Appleton as Agnes Eaves, the wide-eyed, virtuous mother whose baby has been taken from her. Appleton also plays Zelda the reckless, saw playing delinquent who takes revenge on the more fortunate inhabitants of the city with her Caligariish drawn gangs of unruly Bayou children mimicking the animated roaches and skinks cavorting about the walls on Red Herring Street. The remedy for taming the Bayou children is recognizable both in the comic shock value of its advent to begin with and its use today as a mainstream fix for headstrong and naughty children.
Lillian Henley composed the original score as the accompaniment to the silent presentation, sampling Mary Poppins, Kurt Weill and Tom Waits among others. The surrealness of silent German Expressionism and the brooding and studied approach to comic drama by Buster Keaton combined with Henley’s score in a packed theatre recreated the miracle and grandeur of film when it was still a novel advancement in mass entertainment. The audience was transfixed.
Suzanne Andrade (Mrs. Villycar) is a comic storyteller with a droll and imposing voice giving body to Paul Barritt’s animations that are the life of this show. Barritt’s knowledge of the biology and physiology of the human eye in conjunction with the psychology of persistence of vision imbue this installation with emotional urgency as we root for the rescue of little Eavie. James Addie is the offstage voice of the caretaker who is played also by Andrade. Andrade’s ability for quick change, costume and character, reinforces the Expressionistic delight of colorfulness without a lot of color.
The many elements of this creation are pulled together into a miraculous deadpan whole that is suitable for children who can suspend belief, all the while it oozes sophistication with an oblique je né sais quoi for the mature, adventuresome theatre lover who will still gaze in childlike awe at what is being presented on the stage. All that and gumdrops too!
Photos provided by Studio Theatre
- Suzanne Andrade
- Esme Appleton
- Lillian Henley
- Voice of the Caretaker: James Addie
- Director: Suzanne Andrade
- Producer: Jo Crowley
- Production Stage Manager: Derek Andrade
- Written by: Suzanne Andrade
- Film Animation and Design: Paul Barritt
- Music: Lillian Henley
- Costumes: Esme Appleton, Sarah Munro
Disclaimer: Studio Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8178.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.