Red Over Red
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
July 22, 2010
It's not often that one can start a review by raving about the sound design. Yet with Red Over Red, sound designer Ryan Holsopple confidently shapes a symphony out of chaos. He incorporates noises both natural to and evocative of the traumas he wishes to explore, creating a world that is intricate, immersive, and frightening. Also the co-author, producer, and a cast member, Holsopple's contributions to the show are nothing short of mesmerizing.
Perhaps more importantly, it's impossible to tell where his role ends and that of the ensemble begins. Red Over Red is an ensemble piece built upon striking imagery, strong performances, and a healthy dose of both the comedic and tragic.
Through scenes and soundscapes, the show explores not just plane crashes themselves, but the ongoing damage the travel industry's lifestyle wreaks on its employees. We quickly learn that spending one's life bouncing between anonymous cities can marginalize any sense of reality or responsibility. Bad choices are made in city after city, and each time the consequences are simply left behind. What starts out as freedom becomes a sort of walking death defined by strained personal relationships and a vague desire for release.
Holly is a stewardess who is afraid to fly. Her fear is so overwhelming that she hides each takeoff in one of the airplane lavatories. A self-hating pilot (played wonderfully by DJ Mendel) discovers this and takes advantage. He strikes a deal that each time she hides in the bathroom, he'll promise not to crash. Thereafter, he visits her before each takeoff to have sex. As Holly, Shauna Kelly's expression during her character's unenjoyable sex scene is priceless. Holly's need for human contact is considerable, her sense of self-worth virtually nil, yet her sole reason for entering the agreement is that she honestly believes it will ensure safe passage.
Director/co-author Shannon Sindelar and set designer Andreea Mincic make the black box theater at St. Mark's Church seem like a limitless playground. The duo shows particular creativity by dropping a large canvas from the grid approximately halfway through the show and incorporating it into staging in various ways. To name a few, it displays projections, impedes characters' blocking, and obstructs the audience's view of the lavatory sex scene.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and would encourage audiences who are wary of experimental theater that this production is readily accessible. One cautionary note, however, is that the sound design can become overwhelming due to prolonged volume and intensity.