Pythia Dust

Local Arts Reviews


Pythia Dust

The Vortex, through Feb. 7

Running Time: 1 hr, 20 min

Welcome to the cabaret at the end of the universe, where every song pulses with a quasar beat and love burns hotter than a supernova. The folks at ethos, creators of the cyberoperas Elytra and The X & Y Trilogy, and the performance installations HyperZoo and Black Tower, boldly go where no one has gone before with this outer space musical revue that feels at once like something never seen before and yet curiously familiar. If you ever wondered what Beehive would be like if it had been mounted at the Vortex, well, here's one possibility.

Pythia Dust is the name of a starship manned – or to be more precise, womanned – by a trio of "hypernauts" who blend the spacefaring spunk of the Star Trek crew, the musical muscle of the Supremes, and the fashion sense and sensuality of Jane Fonda's Barbarella. In shiny vinyl/spandex thigh-high boots and bustiers – the curve-hugging costumes courtesy of designer Kari Perkins – Capt. Aranzia, navigator Sintela, and science officer Hypernica ferry us around the cosmos while belting out such intergalactic Top 40 fare as "Flames of the Morning Sun," "Sirens of the Lust Machine," and "Athena Waves."

If you've never heard these tunes before, don't be alarmed; they're original efforts by ethos headman Chad Salvata, and while they may not exactly boast the poppy hooks of a Sixties Gerry Coffin-Carole King chartbuster, they have their own techno-sound allure, and the instrumentation does occasionally hearken back to the Sixties, especially in that muscular drumbeat pounded out by Matt Patterson and the macho electric guitar work of Edmund Pantuliano. The retro mood is further enhanced by the electronic patter of computer guidance system Cosmetica – think a sultrier HAL 9000 – and by Jason Amato's glorious candy-colored concert lights, twisting and twirling pop art patterns across Ann Marie Gordon's crystal-columned starship bridge stage (which appears to be a nod to the Fortress of Solitude in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies). Then there are the girl-group moves choreographed by performer Jo Beth Henderson and director Bonnie Cullum, which have our three cosmic guides smartly shimmying and stepping off like go-go girls blasting off to the planet Shindig.

That's not to say that these interplanetary travelers are nothing more than space cadets. Jo Beth Henderson's black-clad Aranzia prowls the stage like a panther and has the ferocious expressions and fierce vocals to match. Melissa Vogt's Hypernica, all in red, is pure fire, her voice smoldering with desire, her body waving like flame, her fingers flickering with an invitation to burn you up in a carnal embrace. Eryn Gettys' Sintela, a silver suit wrapping her long, lean limbs, is mercury, a metallic sheen brightening every fluid move she makes and even her voice as it flows through numbers such as "Lost on the Ocean in Your Eyes," maybe the show's most beguiling song. There's little script to help us distinguish these women from one another, and their voices are somewhat similar – a quality which adds to their power when their voices meld into one – but the performers create distinct personalities with their attitudes and actions and look to be having fun doing it.

In fact, that sense of fun is a big part of what Pythia Dust has working for it. After the profound gravity of the cyberoperas and the overall seriousness of both HyperZoo and Black Tower, the playfulness of this outer space revue is a surprise, and it's a delight to see the same imagination and ingenuity that made ethos' more sober efforts so fascinating lavished on a lighthearted trip across space and back in time. It's been said by fans of early science fiction, with its flying cars and dreamy Deco skyscrapers, that the future isn't what it used to be. Pythia Dust may not be The Jetsons, but it does get us back to a future that's fun to look forward to.

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Pythia Dust, ethos, Chad Salvata, Bonnie Cullum, Jo Beth Henderson, Eryn Gettys, Melissa Vogt, Jason Amato, Ann Marie Gordon, Kari Perkins, Black Tower, HyperZoo, Elytra, The X & Y Trilogy

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