February 25, 2021

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For splendid leisure

Zoo Motel and The Journey choose us away from it all | Theater Evaluate

6 min read

Even before the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol previous 7 days, the motivation to get absent from this present hellscape was sturdy in several of us. Cooped up, fed up, terrified, puzzled, and indignant, I have been veering among doomscrolling and fantasizing about a Yeatsian bucolic escape. No matter whether “peace will come dropping gradual” or pours down like a waterfall, I’ll get it. (BRB: on the lookout up YouTube tutorials on how to make a cabin from clay and wattles.)

Most of us (but not sufficient of us, plainly) usually are not likely everywhere appropriate now. Which is why two digital solo pieces on the virtues of connecting—with ourselves, with each other, and with the previous and future—offer some respite.

Zoo Motel, presented through Backlinks Corridor, streams stay in serious time from Cajicá, Colombia, in close proximity to Bogotá, the place creator-performer Thaddeus Phillips has his studio. The Journey, presented by means of Chicago Shakespeare, will come to us (also in a livestream) from the rural Scottish property of mentalist-performer Scott Silven.

The two exhibits are out there to minimal audiences per performance, and both equally have to have a level of participation from viewers. But with this sort of charming tour guides, it can be uncomplicated to surrender to their gentle requests for interaction.

In Zoo Motel, Phillips is a visitor in the eponymous establishment, in which the walls are covered with paintings suggestive of both equally catastrophe (the Titanic) and the craving for conversation and connections (the “golden history” sent into space with the Voyager in 1977, a now-long gone payphone in the center of the Mojave Desert, 12 miles from the closest paved highway). 

The conceit is that Phillips is himself stranded in the motel, in which the rest of us are also “guests.” Just before logging into the Zoom efficiency, you can obtain a home important and an “evacuation map” of the premises, which comes into perform in a card trick afterwards in the exhibit. (Steve Cuiffo is credited with the magic structure.) He is, as he tells us, intended to be heading to Spain to immediate “this theater perform about the conclude of the globe.” But apocalypse, like stay theater, can wait—at least until eventually he tells us a handful of tales about the objects depicted in the space (developed by Steven Dufala). 

The most poignant of these is likely the Otsuchi “wind phone,” a glass-paneled booth housing a disconnected rotary cellular phone, erected by Itaru Sasaki in his hilltop backyard garden right after his cousin died in 2010. A year afterwards, Sasaki’s town missing 10 percent of its population in a tsunami pursuing an earthquake (the similar one that induced the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor). Sasaki determined to open up his backyard garden to all those who wished to spot phone calls to deceased beloved types, and an approximated 10,000 people today made the trek there within three several years of the disaster.

Phillips will take some side excursions into his household history, using participating in cards to illustrate the story of his grandfather, Abe Schiller, who attained the nickname “Mr. Las Vegas” when he moved from Detroit (in which he experienced been active in local structured criminal offense) to accomplishing PR for the Flamingo Hotel, which led to a hairy experience with mobster Bugsy Siegel, recounted by Phillips. (He never understood his grandfather, but used some of this substance in a 2007 piece, Flamingo/Winnebago, presented as a result of his enterprise, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental.)

His grandfather’s embrace of the American west (he also experienced the nickname “The Jewish Cowboy,” and his grandson dons a western-type shirt evocative of one worn by Abe in a family photo) implies that reinvention is important to survival. But a “journey” to a travel-in to see The Wizard of Oz also reminds us that you will find, very well, no put like household. Even as we are driven aside by the pandemic, we long to hook up with people we’ve shed and individuals we can only see and listen to by way of digital gadgets.

Zoo Motel, directed by Tatiana Mallarino, gets a tad homiletic at factors, whilst also tending to soar absent from a story just as a further issue peeks out more than the thematic horizon. But Phillips is a carefully charming presence, and even if our link with other audience customers in the Zoom motel placing is spotty, it can be a welcome reminder of how much the other people today about us add to the knowledge of watching theater unfold.

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The Journey

That connection is considerably additional direct and specific in The Journey. Silven’s demonstrate (for which viewers associates/individuals need to have a microphone, digital camera, and preferably headphones) also leans into the homiletic, but with a lot more enter from the audience. We see every other projected on to the partitions of Silven’s Scottish studio, where different objects (a locked wood box, a pile of rocks reminiscent of the stone cairns dotting the countryside exterior his doorway) finally aspect into the story, connecting up seemingly disparate factors. Viewers customers are also requested to convey an object of their personal to the present, together with blank paper and a black marker.

I will admit to being a little bit emotionally primed for this exhibit: I noticed it on the anniversary of my sister’s passing, and a ring that as soon as belonged to her ended up being one particular of the viewers objects Silven selected for crafting this sequence of connections. Unquestionably we’ve been spoiled with fantastic “up close” magicians and mentalists in Chicago for many years, but that doesn’t choose absent from the astonishing skill that Silven shows below. (If you can determine out how he does it, retain it to yourself. Like Fox Mulder in The X-Information, I want to imagine.)

Woven into the series of viewers-centered interludes is the tale of Callie, a traveler and Rip Van Winkle-like figure that Silven claims is an old folk tale. I have not observed the provenance of that tale, but the identify has echoes of Cailleach, a “divine hag” related in Scottish mythology with Beira, the queen of winter. Beira’s pattern of dropping stones from her basket as she walks around is, according to legend, how the hills and mountains came to be. Cailleach is also the subject of a gorgeous Irish poem about growing old, relationship from the eighth or ninth century.

Silven way too is dropping pebbles of perception for us as the demonstrate (directed by Allie Winton Butler, created by Jeff Sugg, and created by Rob Drummond) unfolds. Pressured by the pandemic to curtail his global travel (we see a boarding pass from his previous live tour for the duration of a person bit), his exhibit appears to exist as a great deal for him to reconnect with his roots as it does to remind us of what issues in our have life. 

If he leans a bit heavily from time to time on the warm and fuzzy—well, I cannot say that impulse was unwelcome right after a nightmarish 7 days of failed coups nationally and a working day loaded with reminders of personalized loss. 1 hopes that Silven can convey his perform to Chicago live and in individual after this pandemic has passed. Until then, if you have bought the time, money, and emotional bandwidth to open up you up to it, The Journey is a wonderful reprieve (complete with magnificent movie footage of Silven walking all around the Scottish terrain) from the doomscrolling. 

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