nytheatre.com review by Theresa Buchheister
August 14, 2012
"What can you find in an old picture except the painful contortions of the artist trying to break uncrossable barriers which obstruct the full expression of his dream?" (The Futurist Manifesto)
If a group or person is to take on an existing name from an existing movement, rather than coming up with their own (which defies the the Futurist Manifesto already), they ought to try their best to not become an opposite day joke of that existing movement. Or the joke ought to be funny.
LOLpera is an attempt to combine the high art form of opera with the low Internet meme LOLcat, set in a futuristic landscape where language is reduced to LOLcatisms.
The Epic Futurists claim to have a "Cult classic in the making!" with LOLpera, but I am afraid that is over-reaching, at best. Not only is their company name a misrepresentation, but so is the work. On many levels, this show is an affront to Futurists (I am not one, as I am over 30). For one, they project images of LOLcats throughout the entire show. A Futurist would think that such images should be in a cemetery, as they are of the past and everything moves too fast to pay homage to such images. For another, in my theatrical wanderings, I was informed that there was a LOLcat musical in the 2009 FringeNYC that sold out. A futurist would cringe at the implications here.
I must say that it is hard to feel bad about a great effort being put forth. There was certainly a good deal of effort on stage. However, when you are charging money and presenting a two hour show, levels of responsibility increase. Effort alone is not enough.
When it comes to the component parts of this project, it seems as if the company did not evaluate their resources before diving in. At the most basic level, an opera should showcase amazing vocal talent, however only a few of the cast members had even decent voices. Not only was pitch a large problem for soloists, but few of the cast could fill the space with their voices (though the few decent singers could, so I cannot blame the space). Some of the softest-voiced singers were also positioned to sing upstage of the musicians, which destroyed any possibility of hearing what they had to offer. The songs were redundant (partially because of the source material, partially because of the constant refrains, and partially because of the repetition within the songs), and not all that catchy. Though operas are not known for their dance numbers, LOLpera moved the cast around in stilted choreography, neither demonstrating a skill in movement nor creation of dynamic staging. One of the cats ought to have been called Amphetamine Cat, based on his spastic and terrifying performance style. I found myself preferring glimpses of the cute cats being projected.
The LOLcats projections were problematic for many reasons, none of which were technical malfunctions, which we were warned about pre-show. Many times the audience responded to the image and not what was on stage, which feels manipulative. 1/3 of the images had fonts that were too small to read, and when I could read them, it became clear that only sometimes did the lyrics use the misspellings and poor grammar that are such a huge part of LOLcatdom. When you are using only the material from the identified source, it feels uneven and ineffective to be exact only sometimes.
On a larger level, the show was very long and unfunny and nothing happened and nothing changed. Not in a Robert Wilson way, where a single pinky can move once over the course of 5 hours and you might be able to find some meaning in it. I really cannot describe it, because nothing happened and nothing changed. There was no meaning or humor that I could derive from the piece, and little point I could find in the experiment of the creation of the piece. It is an argument for theatre being dead, when I would rather just sit at home and look at cute pictures of cats by myself with a bottle of wine and some crackers.
There were a couple of silver linings to my audience experience. AstroCat (Ruiter) and SeriousCat (Allen) brought their A-game. They found a way to sell the music and their roles within this semi-world that was set up. It was nice to root for them to come back on stage and rewarding when they did.
Making theatre in New York is hard enough. This is why it is a good idea to consider your sources and your resources and then put forth an ambitious effort.