Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Slug Bearers Of Kayrol Island

photo: Carol Rosegg

This deadpan-hip sung-through musical is visually strange and strangely hypnotic: the actors move about a stage full of flat projections of colorful drawings and animations, an alternate reality in which the characters live in cartoon apartments in a cartoon Manhattan. The visuals, along with the melodically simple music, give the sensation that we're watching a modern-day urban fable: when the bored-with-life daughter of a moneyed philanthropist is suddenly compelled to right one of the world's wrongs (specifically, she travels to an island where exploited workers toil for the metal slugs that wind up, for no good reason except to give the illusion of heft and value, in modern appliances) we're prepped for a gentle condemnation of misguided liberal do-gooders. (The fact that the new beau on her arm adores and collects instruction manuals, and expects the workers to embrace such "poetry", seals the deal). But this message is confused with another cross-purposed one early in the second act and thereby doesn't land as it should; I'll simply say, in the interest of not giving anything away, that the workers' exploitation is not what it seems. And although I wouldn't call it monotonous, the show's music becomes fatiguing in its sameness after about an hour: you want to say "get on with it already!" during most of the recicative, when the music does little except protract simple conversation. The material cries out to be cropped down to a one-act. All this said, I wouldn't warn anyone who values the offbeat away from this show. There's thought and invention here, and more than a little bit of visual magic.

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