Saturday, December 18, 2021

"The Red and the Bright" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

photo by Todd Craig
nimbus theatre is celebrating 20 years in #TCTheater with their 50th production, the original play The Red and the Bright. From my first nimbus show, the original and locally historical play Bohemian Flats in 2013, to the harsh look at race and racism in America in Nacirema, to the breathtaking design of Ghost Sonata, to a fascinating look into art forgery in From Darkness, to many historical dramas and even a comedy, what I've come to expect from nimbus is something interesting, thoughtful, and unique. Sometimes a little weird, sometimes a little rough, but always intriguing, forward-thinking, and worth checking out. They often do original plays, as is the case with The Red and the Bright, written by co-Artistic Director Liz Neerland and directed by co-Artistic Director Josh Cragun. They began working on it before the pandemic, and it's finally seeing the stage, presenting a fantasy world that feels real and complete unto itself, from the language spoken, to the relationships amongst the tight community, to the detailed design. Only two more performances remain; click here for info and tickets.

The play begins with a voiceover about the beginnings of the world, which is similar to the beginnings of our world, but different. It doesn't take very long to be completely immersed into this world, with its specific language that is slightly different from our own, but close enough to be understandable (day is referred to as light, night as dark, a year as a turn, with some made-up words that make complete sense after a few repetitions). We're in the Motherpine Station, which every year welcomes pilgrims on their way to visit the Cave of the Mothers. Except that they haven't seen many pilgrims lately, so when one shows up at the same time that strange things begin happening, it throws the world into chaos. There's a mysterious fog, strange creatures killing animals and people, and a wolf with one red eye and one white eye who may actually be there to help. The story follows the classic hero cycle as an apprentice (star)gazer, the sort of holy person of the group, needs to accomplish dangerous tasks to save the community.

photo courtesy of nimbus theatre
The strange world is easy to buy into thanks to the consistency of the dialogue and the performances of the six-person cast (Faith Culbertson, Dana Lee Thompson, Boo Segersin, Mitchell Frazier, Ariel Pinkerton, and Brian Hesser), who make their oddly named characters feel human, believable, and relatable. The set design creates an environment that looks not of this world, with icy shapes, detailed props including maps and lists, and an impressive statue of a woman holding a telescope that looks as if it were carved from a tree trunk. Characters are dressed in familiar items of clothing worn in new ways that help further define this alien world. The surround sound makes it feel like creatures are all around you, lighting effects create some spooky moods, and images of the moon and night sky are projected on the back wall. All elements combine to effectively create this unique world. (Scenic Design by Ursula K. Bowden, Costume Design by Rubble&Ash, Lighting Design by Alex Clark, Property Design by Corinna Troth, Sound Design by Forest Godfrey, Video Design by Caitlin Hammel and Sal V Cloak.)

The Red and the Bright is a new original story that feels like an ancient legend from a land that is different from our own, but with a shared humanity. A story of persevering through hardships and coming together as a community to keep the dangerous creatures at bay so that everyone can live in peace. A pretty great story for nimbus' 50th show and post-pandemic return.