Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fringe Festival 2012: Ash Land

Day: 5

Show: 16

Title: Ash Land

By: Transatlantic Love Affair

Created by: Diego Lopez

Location: Rarig Thrust

Summary: A very loose re-imagining of the classic Cinderella tale, in which our heroine is now a farmer's daughter somewhere in the plains of middle America in the last century. Ellie's beloved mother dies, leaving her and her father devastated and with a farm to care for in a drought. Ellie's aunt marries her father in order to help care for her and the farm, but decides to sell it. Ellie goes to the town banker's party to try to stop the sale, where she meets his kind and handsome son. And then, it begins to rain.

Highlights: I saw this show at the Sunday night "Audience Pick" encore performance, and I'm so grateful I had a chance to see it. I found it to be achingly beautiful. A steel guitar (played by Harper Zwicky) accompanies the action and sets the tone for the show (if there's an instrument more mournful than a steel guitar, I've never heard it). Transatlantic Love Affair (what a cool name for a theater company) does physical theater (see also Live Action Set), which means that the eight actors in the cast portray everything in the world they create, not just the characters. They are the waving wheat, the water pump, the pigs, the doors and windows, the car, and most delightfully - the rain. It's so playful and inventive, and reminds me of a phrase I often use to describe Ten Thousand Things - the power of collective imagination. With zero props or set pieces the cast (with the help of the music) is able to transport everyone in the room to a specific time and place. Of special note in the cast are Adelin Phelps as our heroine Ellie, Derek Lee Miller as her grief-stricken father, Isabel Nelson as her gone but not forgotten mother (you can just feel the love between them in this sweet little family), and Heather Bunch as the "evil" stepmother, who's just trying to get by like everyone else. This is the first show I've seen by Transatlantic Love Affair; I missed Ballad of the Pale Fisherman when it was at Illusion Theater earlier this year, but you can bet I won't make that mistake again when Illusion again hosts them for Red Resurrected early next year.

Friends, this one really touched me. And that's all I ask from theater - to move me in some way, whether it's to laughter or tears, or a different way of thinking about something, or a different way of seeing something. To leave the theater knowing that I'm different than when I walked in, that I've been forever changed (in some small way) by what I've seen. That's what this show did for me. What a wonderful way to end an amazing Fringe Festival.

Read more of my fringe fest reflections...

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