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BWW Reviews: THE ORCHID FLOTILLA is a Stunning Exploration of the Human Soul's Ability to Survive

One of my favorite descriptions of what theatre is states that "theatre is an experience, shared by a group of strangers, in the dark." This description certainly holds true for THE ORCHID FLOTILLA created by writer/director Caroline Reck, playing through Sept. 20 at The Salvage Vanguard Theater. It returns to Austin after a 2012 run that earned it 6 B. Iden Payne and 2 Critic's Table Nominations. It is clear to see why it received all the nominations it did.

THE ORCHID FLOTILLA can best be described as a dream one might have after watching "The Secret Life of Plants". While the piece is performed with no dialogue, there is a connecting thread that consists of puppetry, beautifully realized by Erin Meyer, with narration by Chris Gibson that explains the life cycle of orchids. It also, in a very surreal way, comments on what you are about to experience.

Set in a future where money no longer has any meaning, this visual performance piece is about many things. Among them: the human capacity to overcome ecological disaster, the usefulness and uselessness of manufactured objects, the importance of ritual to the human soul and the human need for companionship.

The flotilla of the title is an island of refuse. On it, we watch a lone woman scrounge for survival in a future after some unknown ecological disaster. The orchids she waters are a metaphor for her ability to adapt.

THE ORCHID FLOTILLA unfolds in five parts that go from sunrise to sunset and spans 13 years of the woman's life. The performers/puppeteers are Caroline Reck and Gricelda Silva and they are both glorious storytellers. There may be no dialogue, but they say far more than words can with expression and movement. Underscoring the evening is a beautiful score by Adam Sultan and an exceptional sound design by K. Eliot Haynes. There is also a stunning lighting design by Megan Reilly. Each of the parts of this production shares an equal importance in telling this stunning, moving, ephemeral dream-story.

There is a plot to THE ORCHID FLOTILLA, but, really, it is best that you just experience it, like the works of Beckett... which the piece very much reminds me of. Allow yourself to be immersed in the evening and I guarantee you days and nights of discussion over what you have experienced to follow... and you won't miss dialogue at all.

THE ORCHID FLOTILLA Created by Writer/Director Caroline Reck.

Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission.

THE ORCHID FLOTILLA, produced by Glass Half Full Theatre, plays Salvage Vanguard Theater (2803 Manor Road) September 4-20, 2014. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays, 6pm. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm. Tickets - $12-25. American Sign Language Interpreted performance on 9/11. Reservations

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