Sunday, January 18, 2015

Deus Ex Machina, by Whirligig

I apologize for posting this review so late -- Deus Ex Machina closes tonight. It is possible to live stream the final show, available here:

Deus Ex Machina is an adaptation of the Oresteia, which tells the story of how Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, returns home after the Trojan war to his wife Clytemnestra, who kills him and his war booty Cassandra with the assistance of her lover Aegistheus. They in turn are eventually killed by Agamemnon's son, Orestes, who is assisted by his sister Electra. For a more in-depth description on how the play should go down, check out Whirligig's Drunk Oresteia videos on YouTube.

The reason the play doesn't proceed as planned is because Liz Fisher (the director and playwright) and Robert Matney have created the show so that is proceeds as a choose-your-own-adventure. The audience can vote on what will happen next and what the characters' will decide to do, resulting in twelve potential endings and 12000+ ways for you to see the show.

Digital media and technology are used extensively throughout the show; the multi-talented Lowell Bartholomee (who also plays Zeus, as only he can) has created multiple media projections, which serve as the mouth-piece for the frequently-consulted oracle. A lot has been said about the use of technology in this show (check out Robert Faires' review for the Austin Chronicle), and it's true; Whirligig has created something brand-new, that looks to the future of theatre and how it may evolve.

But what has truly made Deus such a knock-out performance is that the show does not get overwhelmed by all of the shiny innovative new technology. Fisher has assembled a cast of Austin theatre's finest, but this show does not coast along on mere talent. The hard work, effort, and dedication required from the cast, crew, and production team really shine; this show is raw, it has a pulse, and it is excellently executed. Katherine Catmull is a fierce Clytemnestra, who's rage and frustration is almost tangible. Another shining star from the cast is Robin Grace Thompson, who plays Cassandra as a smart, personable, quick-talking young woman. A humane addition to the story telling is the almost constant presence of the Chorus, composed of a pack of old wise-cracking fools, suffering from various disabilities. They provide a touch of humor to a situation that is ultimately dark, and provide a fresh perspective on the events. The ensemble has also put a lot of work into the movement of the piece, which contributes to the drama in the opening sequence and builds tension while the votes are being counted.

Whirligig is a theatre company to watch. Follow them on Facebook to find out about their upcoming productions, I'll definitely have my ear to the ground.

Location: Long Center, off of Riverside

Parking: You can pay to park at the garage, or you can scout along Riverside to see if there is an elusive free parking space available. Just be sure to pay attention to signs, some spaces are reserved for special events.

Bus: The 5 will drop you off directly across the street from the Center if you're coming from the South, if you're coming from the North it will drop you off near the parking garage. Alternatively, you can take the rapid bus, which is only a block east of the Center.

Food: There are several fast food options on Riverside and Lamar, but the Long Center is not far from South Congress, which offers many dining options.

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