Review of “Elevation” in Chicago Arts Review

The esteemed Ira S. Murfin reviewed our last installment in the Spring issue of the Chicago Arts Journal. Review reprinted in full below (no link, sorry!)

Theater Oobleck, Elevation: Baudelaire in a Box Episode 6 Links Hall, March 5th

Not so many days later I found myself at the new Links Hall at Constellation for Episode Six of Baudelaire in a Box, Theater Oobleck’s ongoing project to translate all 120 poems in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal to cantastoria pieces — spoken or, usually, sung versions of the poems accompanied by images on paper or fabric scrolling or flipping by. The theme of Episode Six was “Elevation,” and Dave Buchen’s multiple hand-painted scrolls, moving drowsily in tandem in the various windows of his enormous purpose-built wooden frame, rose grimly upward. The often dour and worn figures, physically and emotionally isolated, tumbled and floated through blank space, in a lost and lonely vision of elevation, drug induced, delusional, far from life on the ground. These weightless pictographic thought bubbles lyrically, sometimes wittily, distilled the poems’ images, marrying word to picture and finding, in meandering and continuous motion, a visual corollary for song.

The poems have been adapted to song by Adelind Horan, Kate Douglas, Amalea Tshilds, and Amy Warren (whose compositions were sung in the Links Hall shows by Nora O’Connor.) The work of these four songwriters was uniformly strong, and aesthetically consistent. Previous episodes of Baudelaire in a Box, all of which have involved Buchen’s paintings and most of which have featured the songwriting of the project’s co-founder Chris Schoen, sometimes with guest musicians and other songwriters joining in, have played something like mini-concerts or an evening of cabaret, with a diverse, mosaic quality. The musicians in this episode, though, thanks to Amy Warren’s curation and some well-rehearsed blending of voices, integrated their compositions in performance into a continuous whole that made for a unique evening of chamber musical theatre. Earnest, intimate, and gentle, even where dark and regretful, this was an all too rare example of theatrical “right sizing” in which the particular qualities of the performance relied upon its limited scale. Were it to be transplanted to a larger context, its most endearing charms might dissipate. Elevation was perfect right where it was.

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