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Review: THE INFINITE TALES at 4615 Theatre Company

Review: THE INFINITE TALES at 4615 Theatre Company
The cast of 4615 Theatre Company's World Premiere Production of
The Infinite Tales.
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

There's a lot of energy and creativity onstage during 4615 Theatre Company's world premiere of The Infinite Tales -- and they come not only from the actors.

The performers are accompanied by live and recorded music, props that take up a good part of the stage (mostly suitcases and trunks, suggesting the long-distance travel the main characters must undergo), shadow puppets and screens, and paper cut-outs, among others.

Still, with all the impressive visual and technical enhancements, the real action of the play is the interaction among the humans, especially in the love, sibling rivalry, and ultimate reconciliation among the four main characters.

The actors are much to be commended. There may be a few moments of over dramatizing, but overall, Jordanna Hernandez, Niusha Nawab, Seth Rosenke, and Emily Sucher -- as the four human siblings turned into swans and doomed to wander for 900 years -- give moving and sometimes funny performances both individually and collectively.

They must display a range of emotions, undergo changes, and convey a sense of growth as they travel though space and time.

Hernandez is particularly compelling as the glue of the family.

The ensemble of actors assuming a number of roles was made up of Melissa Carter, Amber A. Gibson, Steve Lebens, Shaquille Stewart, and DE Jeannette Horne.

One of the goals of 4615 is encouraging local playwrights. In this case, the adapter of the myths incorporated in The Infinite Tales is close at hand. Gregory Keng Strasser, who also directed, is now producing director of the theater.

This is only 4615's third season, but the theater company is making its mark. Its theme this season has been "myths"; only, the first two plays of the season related to modern myths, whereas The Infinite Tales goes back in time to present a new take on ancient Irish folktales. Hence the subtitle of the production, "A Play of Irish Myths."

Sometimes reading a theater program is optional. Not in this case. In addition to a synopsis printed separately, a note by dramaturg Aria Velz explains the root of this adaptation -- though she says The Infinite Tales uses none of them as definitive but rather as "guiding forces."

Because of the many elements onstage, several crew members deserve credit -- including set designer Willow Watson; lighting designer Dean Leong; costume designer Jeannette Christensen; puppet designer Matthew Pauli; and scenic artist Kelley Rowan.

Paola Vanessa Losada did the fight choreography, and Paige Washington choreographed sections.

The theater company's artistic director Jordan Friend was responsible for the sound and music composition.

My only criticism would be that the play begins to drag a little toward the end and might benefit from being a little shorter.

But it remains intriguing and powerful, with strong performances to commend it.

What is perhaps most compelling about The Infinite Tales is that it demonstrates how a literary work can be both specific and universal. Whether it's conflict within families, spells, or feats of courage, the stories that feed into the production are both strongly related to Irish folk tradition but also speak to everyone. Of course, Irish tales are particularly lyrical.

Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes with one intermission.

The Infinite Tales plays through December 29, at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda. For tickets, click here.

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