The Austin Chronicle


Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, May 10, 2002, Arts

The Kindermann Depiction: A Hell of a Universe Next Door

Blue Theater,

through June 2

Running Time: 2 hrs

There are two worlds. One is flooded with leaves, one is made of cloth. The two are separated by a jagged fence of black iron spikes. On the leaf side, a boy and a man. On the cloth side, a man and a woman. Leafward, the boy sets trap for books beneath the deep, deep floor of leaves. Clothbound, the woman and man pay heed to a shrine of sorts: the effigy of someone loved and lost. The woman has no right arm; instead, a black iron spike -- like those that make up the border fence -- protrudes from a gauze-wrapped shaft of what might be human flesh. This spike fills with black blood, which, according to some reckoned schedule, is drained by the leafside boy. The black blood is mixed with bookdust that the boy has scraped from his trapped and killed volumes, this mush is then shaped and baked to provide food for the boy, the woman, the boy's father, the woman's husband ...

Intrigued? Little way to be otherwise. This complex, living tableau, envisioned by Physical Plant Theater's Steve Moore and directed by Carlos Trevino, lit to perfect moods by Stephen Pruitt, draws us in with its precise arrangements of interdependence and its gently elusive chains of internal logic. And, especially, with the emotion-fraught struggle that is the engine of this sad and magnificent vehicle.

Someone has died. A child has died, in fact, as the show's promo copy informs us. We might've gleaned as much; but it's good to have an Official Word amidst all the strange wonders, a written pattern to the fabric of this existence, if less tenable a pattern than those from which Meredith Moseley created the gorgeously appropriate costumes. Is the leafside boy, as played by Justin Kee, kin to the child lost by the clothbound woman and man? Or is this booktrapping boy the dead child himself, now gone over to the Other Side? And is the woman's husband, a sort of twisted Ahab played by Robert Pierson, looking for the son on his long journeys elsewhere? And what's the function of the intricate ledger into which the woman, portrayed by Jessica Hedrick, scratches bits of information? And why does the leafside man, given life by Hank Cathey, want to protect the boy from the shambling yet gentle monster (the completely submerged Parker Williams) that visits the world of cloth?

We ponder these things from above the heads of the players, looking down and out into their worlds (the incredibly transformed Blue Theater annex) from our single row of 20 chairs. We're wearing headphones, the better to hear the music and soundtrack composed by Adam Sultan and Eliot Kingsley Haynes. Our minds are boggled and enchanted and slightly confused; but our hearts are certain that there's a great deal of grief and pain playing out below; which, thankfully, moves toward what we must believe -- the generation of new life, in whatever form, being a True Good Thing -- is a sort of redemption.

There's a style of flippant descriptives used mostly in soundbite factories, but it's one which, we swear, will best give you an idea of what to expect. You know Brian Froud, the man responsible for (among other things) the look of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal? This Kindermann Depiction is like a work of Froud, as directed by David Lynch. It's a very theatre-y work, in the best sense, and it's no slam-bang whizjob of excitement. But there are two worlds: Ours and this other one that Steve Moore has invented. And we wouldn't want to live there; but our lives are much enriched by having paid a visit.

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