BWW Review: WEIGHTLESS at Strand Theater
Ovid's Metamorphoses has inspired countless adaptations in the two millennia since it was first published - Mary Zimmerman beautifully revived her version at Berkeley Repertory Theatre earlier this year. In Weightless, husband and wife composers The Kilbanes (Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses) hone in on one of the lesser known fables of Procne and Philomela to create a rich, carefully-crafted rock opera. Rather than juggle competing narratives like other adaptations, this piece provides focus and clarity that enables real empathy for the sisters at its center.
Sworn to be inseparable, Kilbane as Procne and Lila Blue as Philomela effortlessly blend and contrast their voices as they tell their story, with Blue's ethereal tones perfectly balancing Kilbane's earthy storytelling. Their palpable chemistry makes their ultimate separation deeply moving. As Tereus, Josh Pollock at first attracts and then repels as his charming exterior gives way to darker motives. As an unnamed god, Julia Brothers is a commanding and benevolent presence, though her narration can linger in the expository rather than illuminate her feelings toward the mortals she oversees.
The score by the Kilbanes is a real treat. From the mellifluous ballad "Mockingbird" - heartbreakingly performed by Blue - to the thumping and buoyantly catchy rock anthem "Awake," each song advances the narrative with a skilled lyricism that would be as powerful on an album as it is within a stage play. Dan Harris on percussion and Moses on the keyboard round out the ensemble, both seamlessly integrating into the story without pulling focus. Gregory T. Kuhn's sound design perfectly blends the performers with some subtle and compelling effects.
Director Becca Wolff has perfectly paced the piece, which ably ebbs and flows over the 90-minute running time. Though Philomela's "Weaving Song" is effectively staged, it gives light to the potential for additional theatricality throughout. The other major transformations are either described or occur offstage. Ray Oppenheimer's lighting design evokes an indie rock concert, but it does leave the performers in the dark at times. Hana S. Kim's projections paired with Angrette McCloskey's simple yet evocative set add a mythical sense of place.
There are countless works celebrating brotherly love, while few focus so keenly and movingly on the relationship between sisters as this production does. It is wonderfully satisfying to see two women loyal to each other battle against their captor under the watchful eye of an omniscient female god. Yet the highlight of this production is the Kilbane's consistently impressive score that is effortlessly performed. Their demonstrable talent and potential make Weightless well worth seeing.
Weightless continues through May 12th, 2019 at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater, 1127 Market St., San Francisco, CA. Tickets are available now at the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or online at actsf.org.