The lights haven’t even dimmed yet when a makeshift street preacher sets up a milk crate and speakers as if preparing to deliver a sermon. She asks us to take out our phones and reflect on the time spent with our phones. How they have become a gospel, but we can be saved! Instead of looking down at our phones as we walk, the way to salvation is to look up. This is only the beginning of a show aiming to critique the consumerist behavior in today’s society.
Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Explores Consumer Culture in Three Acts
In CONSUMED, the ensemble brings together a multimedia and multidisciplinary performance true to the company's mission statement. They aim to start conversations with their pieces, and do so quite literally in the first act of their show. Choreographer and Artistic Director Sara Maslanka starts the show asking us if we’ve experienced those street preachers or other canvassers on the streets. What do we typically do when we’re about to pass by them? We duck our heads and walk past them as quickly as possible, wanting to appear very consumed in our phones.
Then, other cast members pop up from the audience taking over the conversation as they find a place to jump in and continue the story. They do so with ease and the conversation flows from one person to the next as they each take a moment to move across the stage - sometimes leaping, sometimes spinning, sometimes even hula hooping in the middle.
The act continues to find connections within the cast members as they stand in a half circle and play an improv game. One person starts a sentence and they each take a turn saying a new word to complete the sentence. The first part closes as the cast strips down literally and figuratively - they remove their clothes and stand there vulnerable. Perhaps a metaphor as to what happens if we are without our means of consumption. The next part explores how a person acts in this world and the dangers we face being consumed with consuming. Each of the individuals are moving separately save for a few moments where they interact with each other and the room is fraught with energy. They attempt to incorporate a monologue performed by a dancer in the far back corner.
For this writer though, and perhaps others in the audience, the meaning is lost. With so much movement happening and fast changing film projections it was difficult to focus on the speaker in the back. One could miss the beginning of the speech and consequently miss the entire message. It all eventually slows with the final part of the show as a table is brought out on the stage. Reminiscent of a family dinner without cell phones, each cast member vies for attention until a starry sky appears. Finally, each cast member looks up and is, we assume, saved.
If you love performance art and especially multi-disciplinary arts experimentation CONSUMED gives you a lot to chew on. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a production on Chicago stages now that similarly strives to bottle so many artistic expressions at once to deliver its intended message – from a photo exhibit to spoken word to dance to film.
However, this reviewer hungered for more clarity to the theme and imagines some other audience members may be similarly challenged.
Now through March 25th
Friday and Saturday 8:00pm
Ebenezer Lutheran Church
1650 W. Foster
Chicago, IL 60640