We went to see the opening performance of FAWN Chamber Creative’s new show Pandora at Geary Lane last night. There’s a lot to like but it’s a dense and in some ways confusing show so I’d suggest that if you plan to go you do your homework. So, don’t expect anything closely related to any of the many versions of the Greek legend. That’s just a jumping off point to explain how both evil/malice and hope came into the world. A very brief prologue in which a character discovers Pandora’s box (or jar or whatever) after centuries and releases Hope into the world sets up three scenes which each, in their own way, reflect the duality of Good/Evil, Despair/Hope or however you want to characterise it. I strongly suggest reading the Director’s Notes and the Libretto before the show to understand what the three scenes are and where the transitions are. There are no surtitles (money!) and not many of us can read a printed libretto in the dark. Also, cast members change character sometimes without change of costume. It’s helpful to know when that’s happening! While there’s only one librettist, David James Brock, there are three composers but stylistic differences between them aren’t so obvious that one realises there has been a transition.
So, after the Prologue, we get Away from Eyes with music by Kit Soden. This piece features Keija Tasahara as a painter and, apparently, dangerous political activist who is painting a picture; Jenn Nichols in shadow or en pointe, while she’s hunted down by a gendarme (Aaron Durand) and protected by her friend (Jon MacArthur). For me it’s the least effective piece of the three. It’s not so much the plot but rather that the language of the libretto gets a bit clunky and the choreography is the least engaging of the three pieces. Still, it’s visually interesting with cool projections and a dramatic lighting plot.
Kaleidoscopic (music by David Storen) I liked more. A woman (Teiya) is trying to keep her ailing lover (Jenn) alive by bringing her all the jewels in the world while two “gatekeepers” (Jon and Andrew Adridge) try to summon her to the afterlife. The language here is effectively poetic and the various jewel elements seem to have a bondage element (gag, blindfold etc) perhaps symbolising the attempt to control what can’t or shouldn’t be controlled. I loved the choreography (by Jenn Nicholls of course) here.
Daffodil (music by Joseph Glaser) sees the end of an abusive relationship between a dying man (Aaron) and his lover (Teiya) doubled, perhaps as younger versions by Tyler Gledhill and Jenn. The duality here is Repentance/Forgiveness (or perhaps the lack of the latter). It’s a hard scene to watch because there’s really kinetic choreography going on centre stage with the singers mostly at the opposite edges of the stage. For me, the choreography, which gets creepier and creepier, is so compelling that I pretty much tuned out the rest!
There’s a lot to like in this show. The overall look and feel with cool sets by Holly Meyer-Dymney, sometimes startling costumes by Tosca Delfino and projections by Omar David Rivero is very engaging. The stage direction (Amanda Smith) is well integrated with Jenn Nicholl’s quite exciting choreography. The cast; singers and dancers both, is excellent. The music is interesting and eclectic, certainly never dull and is effectively performed by Adam Scime and a small ensemble off to one side. It works as spectacle. It works as ballet. I think one has to put the effort in to make it work as music theatre. If it were a longer run I think I’d try and see it again because I’m sure I missed a lot last night.
Pandora plays at Geary Lane. There are two more performances; tonight and tomorrow at 8pm.
Photos by Francesca Chudnoff.