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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Theatre Review: The 7-Shot Symphony


COWBOY SYMPHONY AT THE BARD”S TOWN IS “A VERY SPECIAL…DON”T MISS SHOW”!

Metromix Emily in air during The 7-Shot Symphony. Photo courtesy of Live Action Set.

The 7-Shot Symphony

By Matt Spring and Ryan Underbakke
Directed by Ryan Underbakke

Reviewed by Todd Zeigler

Entire contents copyright 2012 Todd Zeigler. All rights reserved.

I have never felt so inferior in all my life.

I’ve thought through at least three different leads for this review, and that’s the only reaction that I as a theatergoer, writer, and performer could possibly have that does Minneapolis-based Live Action Set’s The 7-Shot Symphony justice. And I mean it in an awed, utterly inspired way. If our own much-lauded Le Petomane Ensemble chose one show, rehearsed it for seven months and then toured it for two years? Imagine what would result. That kind of experience is upstairs at The Bard’s Town this weekend only.

The 7-Shot Symphony is a cyclonic web of classical forms lassoed with skilled hands by a talented group of dance- and commedia-based performers, cinematically underscored by a country-western three-piece. Classical myths are imported (along with a handy-dandy primer in the program explaining the varied source material) into Deus County, an appropriated dot on the map of America’s own mythic past, The Old West.

Deus County is populated with faces and types that are familiar on many fronts. There’s county sheriff, Odin Graybeard, and his deputy sons, Tyr and Thor; saloon minstrel John Orpheus and his mute bride from the old country, Eurydice; Masamune, the silent gunslinger who will only draw on those who deserve it; and a host of other pistol-packing saddle riders. Live Action Set achieves an amazing multi-layered effect of making these timeworn tales viscerally vivid while intertwining them in such a way that the Symphony becomes an epic tale all its own.

As with Le Petomane, the impressiveness of the tale’s construction is compounded by its performance. Watching the ensemble work is like seeing fireworks for the first time: jaw-dropping. Costume pieces are the only foreign elements employed to establish place and time. Every setting, prop and character is created using only the contortions of the performers. Within a span of seconds they transform from an arm-linked mountain range for a four-finger horse to a pair of saloon doors which become a zooming camera eye to pinpoint a sniper’s deadeye aim. It’s a never-ending dance through eight “movements” that is a wonder to behold.

Watching this show, I was reminded of my favorite high school teacher. He would look sympathetically on those of us struggling to figure our way out of our teenage bewilderment and provided us with these stories – these lessons. We could see that for millennia there have been tales of good and evil, honor, acting nobly in the face of insurmountable odds, unintended consequences, and justice. He introduced us to the idea that the world does have an order, a sense to it that would guide us as adults. Now, in an adult world, when things makes less sense than it did to a teenager, it’s comforting to know these tales still have merit to artists who are willing to look at them with fresh eyes and remind us about that order. Important, vital theater says things we need to hear, and 7-Shot Symphony is rewarding listening.

When it comes to a review, I prefer to wait a day or two before appraising a performance, intending to let the intended effect settle before I evaluate. This review is a rush for me, and I’m reluctant to provide unadulterated praise. Constructive criticism should always be a goal. I try and try, but simply can’t dilute my initial reaction. The 7-Shot Symphony is something really special.  Do not miss this because it is quite literally going away. Hopefully The Bard’s Town will bring them back soon.

The 7-Shot Symphony
By Live Action Set

Featuring Mark Benzel, Travis Bolton, Andy Carroll, Joey Ford, Damian Johnson, Emily King, Matt Riggs, Dustin Suggs, Derek Trost, and Jenna Wyse

January 21 at 2 p.m.
Sunday 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.

The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville KY 40204
(502) 749-5275
http://www.thebardstowntheatre.org/

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