Ninety years ago, Pirandello's play Six Characters In Search of An Author made its way to Broadway to mixed reviews. While the play Once in A Blue Moon and Pirnadello's have nothing else in common, a thread could be drawn between the title of the latter and the formation of the former.
Last Friday, at the invitation of my friend Gil Reyes, Theatre 502's co-artisitic director, my date - Callaway Kosine - and I attended the opening night perfomance of Once in A Blue Moon, created, staged, and performed by the ensemble of Le Petomane, at the Rudyard Kipling on W. Oak Street. The play was a lot of fun, a little disjointed, but a nice story nonetheless. It seemed like six or seven vignettes in search of a common theme.
But, there was a common theme, that of the play's heroine, Ruby, and the loss of her voice and the journey to reclaim it. Through a series of scenes - a streetyard, a field, a diner, and some others I wasn't quite able to place, Ruby meets with adventures and antagonists in her effort to follow her heart and find her voice.
There were bits and pieces of familiar feelings - some spoken verse that sounded Elizabethan, some eerie dance from the 20th century, evocations of mystery in the form of a Coyote, and a Blue Moon which seemed to be the magical force keeping it all together. For those who follow me on Facebook, you know that I am strongly attached and attracted to the moon, a personal sort of lunacy.
There were doses of rhyme and rhythm, singing and dancing, and even sword fighting. I was intrigued by and completely enjoyed the music created by the playing of a propane tank. Listening, I envisioned in my head scenes from some Mithraic celebrations in one of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogies - or maybe it was a scene from the Mists of Avalon, I forget which.
The ensemble is four actors, three of whom, Heather Burns, Tony Dingman, and Kyle Ware, played a variety of roles - too many to list and sometimes hard to distinguish, especially since I've waited a week to write my review - apologies extended. The fourth was Kristie Rolape in the lead as Ruby. One role played by Kyle Ware was that of narrator, in the character known as Fairy Thoughtfather. Dingman roles included Ruby's father, high school friend, truck driver acquaintance at the diner, and some slickster who looked remarkably like a young Frank Sinatra. For me, the star role wasn't the protagonist Ruby, however. It was Coyote Blue, as played by Heather Burns (who I know from somewhere but I can't quite place where). Her moves around the stage and through the audience as the Coyote, a non-speaking role, were mesmerizing, hynotic, and elegant, all at once. The Coyote character appears at different times throughout the play and the delivery was top-notch at all times. I found myself anticipating the Coyote's next appearance on the stage. The threesome also played a blue-haired stoner band in one scene which was a lot of fun. Dingman, as the trucker, is also a rapper - an interesting performance. In the diner scene is a dance number which was straight out of Stomp - a clogging in rhythm which provided a musical perfomance all its own - or maybe it was reminescent of the old Hayloft Hoedown, for those of you old enough to remember that local show which played for many years, on WHAS at first and finally on WLKY, in the golden days of television here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. But, I digress.
Like every good tale, the heroine succeeds in her mission; her voice is found and the show comes to a quick end - a little too quickly although the play ran a little over an hour and twenty minutes the opening night. Perhaps because of the bareness of the stage, or the venue itself, a very intimate space with dinner tables and chairs - and dinner and drinks all around. I've always enjoyed that sort of venue but it isn't for everyone. My friend Callaway seemed as equally pleased with the performance. And, the truth is I have been going to events at the Rudyard Kipling for almost thrity years. It is a great place for some sometimes less-than-serious fun.
After the play, the cast and most of the patrons retired down into the bar part of The Rud for some music from a band called Neulore - or something - at that point I was on my third glass of Pinot Noir and they sounded pretty good.
Two more showing for Once in A Blue Moon are offered - tonight (Friday the 17th) and tomorrow, both at 7:30 pm. While it wasn't polished theater, it was fun and engaging, and a little quirky. I give it a B+.
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