BWW Review: THE AFTERPARTY Moves Through The Metaphor in East Austin, TX
Entering through a doorway into a hazy house, THE AFTERPARTY tells the story of young Claire Leverrier tormented by the death of her childhood crush Devon. Or is it? Written by Reina Hardy in its world premiere, THE AFTERPARTY moves through a love story creating a modern day mythological tale of how stargazing can score you a ticket to a party at the end of the universe. Beginning with a small light in the darkness, much like the known universe, the light grows to reveal a hillside perfect to observe the stars. Playfully interacting with one another, Claire and Devon wrestle and dance but never kiss. Creating tension of young love that propels Claire's journey to self-discovery as she embarks on her search for life.
Jumping in and out of narration, Claire embarks on her journey to the THE AFTERPARTY while continually reminiscing the loss of missing the kiss she desired as a young girl. Joined At The astral party by ancient Athens playwright Aristophanes (played by Rommel Sulit), German mathematician Johannes Kepler (played by Trey Deason) and American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (played by Valoneecia Tolbert), she discovers the invitation given to her by the mysterious "M" to this elite gathering was in fact a loaded question. With the plot riddled with metaphor and interpretive movement, THE AFTERPARTY takes the audience on a ride through stellar constellations.
Presenting each story and movement piece more as a suggestion for plot connection than continuity, the pairing of the writing by Hardy and direction by Liz Fisher presents new puzzle pieces for the audience to build the bigger picture. At the center of this show's universe stands Shannon Grounds as Claire Leverrier. Le Verrier referencing the 19th century french mathematician, who by using only mathematics, specialized in celestial mechanics and gained the ability to predict the existence and position of the planet Neptune. This may be interpreted as Claire's potential ability to find Devon as her heavenly search gains speed. Referencing and creating Claire as a seeker in THE AFTERPARTY, awards Grounds many opportunities to showcase her superb vocal work and modern movement storytelling. Capturing the wonder and magic of avant-garde theatre, Grounds is a true pro commanding patrons to watch and try to connect the pieces of her unwinding story.
Playing her love interest Devon is Ja' Michael Darnell. As he playfully teases Claire with Hardy's witty writing, Darnell manages to capture the innocence of a young boy along with wisdom of an astronomy fanatic. Switching roles throughout the show between Devon and the ominous M (apparently the host of the after party), Darnell's characterizations of the young boy and all-seeing celestial body were vastly different and a pleasure to watch. With M presumably and symbolically meaning "metaphor", Darnell continued to shock and carry the stories magical elements with ease.
Bringing the show it's cosmic aesthetic is lighting designer Patrick Anthony. Throughout the production the lights could be considered as another character as they represented the galaxy and often the mood of Claire on her haunting adventure above. Another key part of THE AFTERPARTY is the movement stylings utilized by the actors to engage the audience further into their world and emotions. Combining the elements of movement and lighting created compelling images and creatively furthered the story. Building the question of the show's metaphor, the presentation of soliloquies discussing Greek mythological constellations and famous scientists who studied them, blur the lines of time and meaning throughout this piece. In a show with outlandish stories and other worldly premises, the pieces of the picture that puzzle the audience seem to land together by the end of Act II.
With symbolism acting as an emblem and galactic references written into each page, THE AFTERPARTY is a show that asks many questions and leaves the audience asking more. Admiring the images created Fisher, this show is an East Austin cup of tea. Within The Vortex's quirky arena, THE AFTERPARTY presents itself as an imaginative challenge for audiences to piece together and find their interpretation. Weird, beautiful and unforgivingly artistic, THE AFTERPARTY invites Austinites to drink from the astral cup and remember the one that got away.
SHREWD PRODUCTIONS AT THE VORTEX
BY: REINA HARDY
DIRECTED BY: LIZ FISHER
JUNE 15TH - JUNE 30TH (THURSDAYS - SUNDAYS 8PM) - INDUSTRY NIGHT 6/27
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Photo Credit: Kimberley Mead & Errich Peterson