nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 10, 2007
"The tragedy in life is not when things are broken; the tragedy is when they are not put back together again." The members of Acting Up have brought together artists from Gulf Coast Louisiana to help put some of the pieces back together after Katrina, and their efforts are not only highly commendable, they are remarkably powerful, inspired, and truly innovative.
Sustained Winds is the product of a very interesting creative process described in the program that I'll save for your visit; suffice to say that there are a lot of hands in this and lots of layers methodically woven and perfectly executed. This multimedia, multi-discipline production makes the very best of theatre as a form and even as function in helping us to remember, rouse, and heal. It is broken into a dozen or so scenes, dances, rants, and songs—oftentimes in various combinations. There's a killer soundtrack and some authentic sound bites and video clips as well. The experience I had was undoubtedly one I could only have in the theatre.
When you walk in there is a lot of action going on—you have a reporter doing interviews, a Mardi Gras girl throwing beads, and there's some great jazz drifting over everything. The mood was somewhat festive and busy. But that changes as the play starts. Of course things you're going to see in the production are sad and even infuriating, but these things are very nicely offset with dance, song, and comedy. It's a well-oiled wild ride that's structured like a performance collage. At one point, the players pull the audience closer to them. At the end, we all danced.
Director Amy Waguespack fills the room with her vision for this show. She has an excellent sense of pacing and timing. The blending of the layers is very well coordinated and yet she leaves some things open to the unexpected. The set is simple—a FEMA tarp on the floor, an altar, an ice cooler, plastic containers that are to be filled with water, a big screen behind it all.
This piece is completely ensemble-driven and the cast here really shines. Andy Cornett plays a great Insurance Man Blues tune. Kara Guarisco draws a lot of attention in her roles and Bambi Deville Engeran is fantastic as a grandma. Dancers Paige Krause and Theresa Wasiloski are enchanting in the Dance of the Swirling Storm. The whole cast and crew truly warrant acclaim for their roles in this production. One thing missing, however, is a diverse cast. One of the first lines in the show describes New Orleans as America's true melting pot but unfortunately and ironically the cast is not.
The production is a great experience on many levels. I was really taken in by its theatricality and intelligence. It makes use of the full potential of theatre and that makes for an extraordinary evening.