Ground To Cloud
nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
August 20, 2010
Christine Marie's creation Ground To Cloud is a visually exciting work of shadow theatre. Using lighting instruments she invented, she composes shadows of objects and performers (cast on a huge screen) that are dimensional and crisp; they shrink and grow, flow and intermingle as in a surreal dream. It's beautiful to watch, but unfortunately the meaning of Marie's work, or what she is exploring, seems indulgently secretive.
The program states we will "witness the ingenuity of Ben Franklin and the tragic life of Saint Barbara, the Catholic patron saint of lightning." What we witness is imagery from these historical lives that serves to extend a motif on electricity and the supernatural. But a motif alone is not enough to nourish an audience. I had a sense that Marie has some strong ideas on human beings' relation with mysterious forces, but we were never invited to delve into her ideas or to ponder them for ourselves.
Marie does achieve some very difficult technical tasks. Her precise blocking of her performers was essential in creating the complex interplay of shadows. And then there is the brief scene in 3D. Yes! 3D! And it was for me one of the most visually exciting moments of theatre I've seen. As you enter the theatre you're given anaglyph glasses (the red and blue type). I assumed they'd be using a 3D projector during the show, but Marie has a better idea.
Halfway through, you're prompted to put on your glasses. And somehow—and I have no idea how—Marie uses a special lighting instrument to make the shadows become three-dimensional. Honestly, I have never seen a more stunning 3D effect (and, yes, I saw Avatar). There was a solitary feeling to it, as if I was the only one in the theatre with these objects hovering inches from my nose. A ghoulish looking character (whose mask work was brilliantly designed by Carlo Vogele) appeared to climb over the audience and stare me down. I took off my glasses in disbelief checking to be sure that it was all an illusion—that the shadows had not left the screen.
The work may not have the import the creator intended, but Ground to Cloud is still an entertaining show; not just for the 3D scene, but for the hypnotic shadow work on display. Marie has a magical way with light. I hope in the future she finds ways to make it as much a feast for the mind as it is for the eyes.