Director Nathan Robbel used a phrase in his press packet Q&A that perfectly states my experiences of Right Brain Project. Robbel describes their brand of theatre as ‘epic minimalism’. Exactly! I’ve seen several RBP productions over the years. I’m always impressed by their commitment to artistic expression. In their small space, the cast and stage are often bigger than the audience. An RPB show is always up-close and intimate.
In SALOME, the theatre goers sit in a semi-circle around the action. In the front corner, the set design/construction team of Mikah Berky and Rush Marler create a multi-tiered throne room. The opposite back corner has a moon perch for a statuesque Charlotte Long. The pivotal dance of the seven veils takes place between the throne and the moon. The dance is the showpiece of this production. Music Composer/Director Trevor Patrick Watkin fills the space with a sultry, smooth melody. The music has an almost chaste sound that belies the manipulating enchantress Shantelle Szyper (Salome). Choreography/movement coach Charlesanne Rabensburg strategically uses a billowing, white tarp. As Szyper flirts with a sensual fluidity, the ensemble ripples this oversized silk under her feet. The look is elegant and sexy as Szyper does her royal striptease.
Playwright Oscar Wilde’s play turns the familiar biblical story into lusty erotica. The leering Maximillian Lapine (Herod) wants his stepdaughter. That part of the tale is well-known. It’s Wilde’s depiction of all the other sexual politics in play that kicks up the heat a few levels. A soldier is hot for Salome too. Szyper effectively plays off that guy’s desire of her to meet John the Baptist. When John is unaffected by her typical allure, Szyper becomes obsessed with kissing him. She boldly seduces Lapine to make John her sexual conquest.
Under the direction of Nathan Robbel, the female prowess is in charge. Not only does Szyper hold court, the noteworthy Rabensburg (Herodias) commands respect. Even though she may be sidelined as a wife, Rabensburg is still very much queen. The regal Rabensburg delivers influential jabs with an icy, cold smoothness.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this SALOME. There were also a few things that didn’t quite work. Robbel tries to bring the ancient story into contemporary times. He illustrates this with costume choices like; Salome’s high-tops. He also has a soldier wearing a leather jacket. I initially mistook the guy for an audience member. He doesn’t really mix in with his shirtless peers. The soldiers themselves bring stiltedness to this moon-soaked temptress’ tale. Their presence feels clunky especially in the beginning.
Still, it’s SALOME’s dance that will make people lose their heads. It’s a visual stunner!
Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission
At RBP Rorschach, at 4001 N. Ravenswood
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Nathan Robbel
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Mondays, March 24th and April 7th, at 8pm
Thru April 12th
Buy Tickets at www.TheRBP.org