BWW Review: AIR HEART at Theatre Project Flies into Uncharted Genre
AIR HART at Theatre Project Flies into Uncharted Genre
If you like pretty girls in spangly costumes on hoops, silks and flying trapezes, you should go to Vegas. The ariel performance of Mara Neimanis in AIR HEART at Theatre Project includes no silks, no spangles.
Naming things is a tricky business. Mara Neimanis, founder and Artistic Director of In-Flight Theater, works in an under-publicized genre that falls into the category of "performance art" and does include "ariel" elements, but neither the overtone of "so abstract and obscure as to be incomprehensible to audiences" nor "sparkly and content-free" is even marginally applicable. 'Ariel performance' is a technically adequate, but significantly underdescriptive term.
AIR HEART, a sixty-minute piece about the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart (performed with no intermission, so imbibe accordingly) involves a single writer-actor onstage, but the show is the product of many players: the lighting designer, whose clever arrangements create mood, amplification, passage of time, photographers and dramatic shadows as an alternative to elaborate set pieces; actors whose voices provide invisible characters with whom Amelia can interact; technical operators whose accurate timing facilitates the interaction between Neimanis and her non-present cohorts and, most especially, sculptors of the fantastic apparatus without which Mara Neimanis' innovative work would be impossible.
Theatre Project is tricky to access by car, being that it's in the Mount Royal area, just East of Howard Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, (accessible from neither) but it's a short walk from the Mt. Royal light rail stop. Though Theatre Project has made impressive adaptations to their elderly upstairs theater in order to make it accessible, all of the staircases are steeply raked and the floor is lumpy. However, it exists, and Baltimore should be glad it does. It, and this show are worth the effort for those who enjoy innovative theatre. The performance space is large enough to accommodate the twelve-foot sculptural apparatus with plenty of room to hang lights above it. The view from any of the 150 seats is unobstructed.
Neimanis' narrative bounces between first and third person, which I found distracting and unnecessary, but her non-linear storytelling, partly fact-based and partly imagined, gives the audience a vivid and not always entirely flattering portrait of Amelia Earhart's dreams and ambitions. She includes the audience in her show, and we play multiple roles, sometimes as Neimanis' audience, sometimes Earhart's, and, briefly, sea creatures. Her physical performance appears effortless, and her movements between earth and sky are smoothly controlled and beautifully executed.
It was an enjoyable hour of unusual entertainment, a delightful departure from traditional fourth-wall theatre.
AIR HEART plays at Theatre Project , 45 West Preston Street in Baltimore Thursday May 1 through Saturday May 3 at 8 pm, and Sunday May 4 at 3 pm. For tickets, phone the box office: 410-752-8558 or visit http://www.theatreproject.org/ .
Photo Credit: Second Glance Photography