Wake Up, You're Dead!
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 29, 2010
It's interesting to think about creation during this time of the year that we celebrate death. Creation, after all, is just a part of the cycle of life and every culture has their story of how they came to be. In Wake Up, You're Dead!, Brooklyn Art Department has created a new creation myth and it's worth a look.
The myth begins when creators, two beautifully designed skeleton puppets named Cornflake and Meatloaf, decide it's time they pay forward the gift of life. A single dancer enters as the Universe being tossed about in the Big Bang and the Ancestors appear as robed figures with crested skulls. Then the lights go low and a short film plays on the brick wall of the theatre, followed immediately by an explosion of savage creatures drenched in black light and outfitted with masks and skeleton suits. The lights move to the back of the stage where a performer cocooned in silk awakes and begins an aerial dance until finally rudimentary humans are formed using a simple design of cloth tied to poles. But that's not the end of it, the Ultimate Being stills awaits and it's a luminous puppet big enough to push the ceiling.
Aaron Haskell creates and directs this spiraling look at the cycle of creation. His choreography is a nice blend of modern and ballet and it is all very well executed. Haskell pours a lot of passion into each segment. Some segments have a nice arc while others hone in on and stretch out a moment. In the short film, for example, I could not tell exactly what happened or if it went anywhere, and that is something I noticed throughout the show. However, Haskell offers an inspiring vision for a new creation myth that is filled with beautiful, well-constructed puppets and costumes. Candice Thompson does a wonderful job with the wide variety of costumes on display here. Haskell designed the puppets and Brooklyn Art Department built them. Their construction is superb. They use balsa wood, fabric, and LED lights. These puppets are very well made and the cast does a decent job animating them. I especially liked the grotesque look of the masks in the segment with the savage creatures that paw and sniff at the audience.
The cast is much more refined in the movement of their bodies than the movement of puppets, and since this show is mostly a dance piece that works. Joshua Dean choreographs the aerial dance and that is certainly one of the most striking moments. Haskell dances in the show along with Robert Anthony, Chris Lee, Maggie MacDonald, Danielle McIntosh, and Korey Phillips. This is an ensemble piece and they solidify well. They make it all look so graceful and care-free. I also enjoyed Ben Simon's live wooden percussion (and I could have heard a lot more of it) and Jonathan Cottle's light design. They both compliment the mood of the piece.
Wake Up, You're Dead! is a lovely show with many extremely talented contributors. It adds the fresh and expressive element of dance to La MaMa's Puppet Series this year and plays a little god while doing so. I'd like to see what Brooklyn Art Department comes up with next Halloween.