Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Promising Promise Land

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Photo by Nick Schroepfer.
Art always seems to closely follow politics, and there is no better example than the pointed shows about immigration that opened last weekend, right as the new immigration ban was set in place from the White House. Flower Drum Song, a beautiful co-production from Mu Performing Arts and Park Square Theater, opened as well as a preview of Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches at the Children's Theatre Company and Promise Land, a new original work from Transatlantic Love Affair (TLA) at the Guthrie Theater.
Photo by Nick Schroepfer.
TLA always puts an interesting spin on things (which is why they were voted favorite theater company by the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers!), and that is just as true of Promise Land as their other productions. Promise Land tells the stories of Yosef and Sara, two children who flee hunger and persecution in their unnamed native country for the United States, the land of opportunity. As so many stories of immigrants and refugees go, things are difficult for Yosef and Sara; they face difficult manual labor, sexual advances from predatory employers, horrifying travel conditions, and more challenges. But the show's positive message overwhelms these troubles: Yosef and Sara are also taken in by compassionate strangers, given generous assistance when they need it most, and ultimately are able to pay to bring their parents to the United States, too.
Photo by Nick Schroepfer.
TLA's physical, lyrical style lends itself beautifully to this story. There's just enough dialogue to keep the narrative moving, but the bulk of the action is told silently through creative, expressive choreography that transports the audience from the belly of a steamer ship to the shores of America, into the heart of a hot manufacturing factory and up the stairs of a two story home. TLA's gorgeous, evocative movements make this story truly universal and leave a deep impression that simple dialogue couldn't convey. This is assisted by strategically placed, striking lighting washes that provide a watercolor effect and beautiful shadows on the simple white backdrop. Costumes are kept similarly simple (and comfortable!), affording the cast the highest amount of movement and flexibility.
Photo by Nick Schroepfer.
TLA takes a true team approach to their work, so I can't call out any specific company members, but just know: you can tell they really put their hearts and souls into this piece. It feels relaxed and thorough even though it runs at a tight 75 straight minutes, and everyone is clearly immersed in the story. Diogo Lopes and Isabel Nelson, the company's co-directors, did a gorgeous job of creating and rehearsing this show (check out an inside scoop on their process at the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers Facebook page). Cheers to original theater with a lot of heart; if you enjoy such productions, make sure to go to the Guthrie to see Promise Land before it closes. And remember, tickets are only $9, so it doesn't have to break the bank.

As an aside: Compendium is now on Facebook! Please take a few minutes to join me at my page there. I can't wait to create a more interactive experience and connect this community. Thanks so much for your support!