The Kalevala is a collection of traditional Finnish folktales, and considered "one of the most significant works of Finnish literature." Even though I'd never even heard of it, much less knew any of its content or themes, it felt familiar. All of these ancient tales share common archetypes and themes across cultures. So while the names are unfamiliar (and unpronounceable), I could have been watching stories from Greek mythology or European fairy tales. There's an evil and all-powerful witch who curses the people by removing the sun (gotta explain those dark Scandinavian winters somehow), a young man who goes on a quest to kill a large and fearsome beast, a smith who teaches her apprentice, and deaths that must be avenged. The play runs a little long, pushing three hours including intermission, and could be tightened up in places. But the use of modern language and design makes the story accessible.
|Jim Ahrens (photo courtesy of nimbus theatre)|
Characters are dressed in a mix of modern and traditional clothing, with leather jackets and denim overalls mixed with long skirts and tunics (costume design by Andrea M. Gross and Barb Portinga). Zach Morgan's scenic design includes some really cool and versatile elements, including large logs that form a door, and then are disassembled into a pile, and a slim metal frame hinting at a boat that also doubles as magical gates. Abstract sculptures in the background add a sense of other-worldliness, while still in a grounding earthy metal.
The Kalevala is the first of many new, ambitious, and interesting works of theater to be presented in the brand new Crane Theater. You can check out the play and the new space between now and October 30, but the Kickstarter campaign ends in just a few days. If you'd like to support a space that will provide a home for many small theater companies in town, watch the video, read about their plans, and consider contributing to an exciting new theater space in this community that sorely needs it.