Rusted Heart Broadcast
Cleveland Public Theatre
Aside from the ten-minute blackout that starts the second act, you're not likely to find a more stimulating production than the world premiere of Rusted Heart Broadcast, now at Cleveland Public Theatre. This work of devised theater, created by director Raymond Bobgan and his nine-person ensemble, engages both the eye and the ear as seemingly spontaneous movement combines with layered music and chants to weave a fairly hypnotic spell over the proceedings. A young woman named Kaysha is on a quest, and her story is glimpsed in the many spinning and tumbling folds of movement, dance and music that are woven into the warp and weft of this production. Utilizing a number of original musical creations by Bobgan and others, the production teases, surprises—and at time frustrates—as you try to follow the flow. It makes for an involving experience that, if you open yourself to the possibilities, can be remarkably rewarding. These aren't the usual rewards of a more conventional theater piece, but the unexpected gifts provided when your senses are tweaked in new and different ways. By maintaining a connection, however tenuous at times, to a storyline, RHB avoids the trap of self-involvement that often plagues devised works. And even though the theme of saving humanity is grandiose, this production earns its right to overstatement through a disciplined and relentlessly vigorous approach to the material.
Through June 15 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727.
Communication is a vexing process, loaded with wrong turns, misapprehensions and often only scattered, partial victories. This basic difficulty is, of course, multiplied when technology is introduced. That's where the aptly named Telephone by Ariana Reines finds its starting place: Alexander Graham Bell calling to Watson over his acoustic telegraphy machine. From there, we also meet a schizophrenic woman and then listen in on a couple dozen "calls." The last two sections are adapted from the challenging philosophical tome The Telephone Book by Avital Ronnell. Even though it is oblique and mysterious at times, the production walks the fine line between accessibility and confusion, never entirely sliding into incomprehension. And teetering on that thin wire is exactly where this piece belongs. Ryan Lucas and Ray Caspio are a tight fit as Bell and Watson, and their celebration after the World's First Call is a gem of choreography and timing. Holly Holsinger as the troubled Babette manages to keep her segment compelling by never overplaying her character's mental difficulties. Telephone asks how technology is attached to human pathology, and what altered states will emerge as technology relentlessly advances. That is a call we should answer.
Through June 15 at the Ohio City Masonic Temple, 2831 Franklin Blvd. Reservations at telephone.brownpapertickets.com
There are some communities where glorious hats are always front and center, such as African-American church-going women. And that is the group celebrated in Crowns by Regina Taylor, now at Karamu House. This is a rocking, foot-stomping gospel music tribute to the importance of an item of clothing that might appear trivial to some. But hats have deep meaning to these ladies. And although this production fizzles in places, the performers under the opulent headgear are, for the most part, immensely appealing. Studded with gospel songs throughout—from "If I Could Touch the Hem of His Garment" to "I'm On the Battlefield for My Lord"—the Karamu stage often throbs with the infectious glory of that music. And the seven-person cast of singers lends these tunes a rich ferocity that makes you want to stand up and dance. Equally appealing are the stories playwright Taylor weaves about the importance of hats to these women. One has hard and fast rules about hats: Don't sneak up on me from behind, don't hug, don't touch. And another has more than 200 hats, taking up every surface in her home and almost driving her husband out. However, the energetic music often overwhelms the speaking voices, so the audience loses some of the wonderful details comprising Taylor's captivating stories. And after about an hour has passed (it's a 110-minute show without an intermission), the momentum of the fragmented piece begins to disintegrate.
Through June 16 at Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th St., 216-795-7077