Champ: A Space Opera
nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 16, 2007
Eight musicians play spacey music on stage. A long silver pipe emits smoke up towards eerily shifting lights. A strange box is set center stage. This is what the audience walks into when they enter Champ: A Space Opera. Hopefully they have all come prepared with their ear plugs. Not that the music is unimpressive; it is actually quite innovative. However, the sheer volume of the production is overwhelming and at times physically painful. Perhaps it was because I was in the front row, but the combination of this music and powerful lights being flashed in the audience's eyes gave both myself and my companion headaches in the first five minutes of the show.
The good news is that the energy and commitment of the actor/dancers matches this cacophony of sound and light. Jonathan Fredrickson, who plays Champ, is a particularly good dancer. There is a charm and delight to watching him onstage that makes up for some of the production's shortcomings. Granted, the main issue with the production is not the performance itself, but rather the venue in which it played [the Village Theater]. Champ: A Space Opera would be better served by a larger space. The musicians take up more than half of the stage, which leaves the dancers with little space to work. Also the main source of plot information comes from a tiny projection screen that was unfortunately blocked by the performers. The video projections themselves, designed by Supermarchè, are quite good. Vivid images and colors make for an exciting addition to this production as a whole.
The play takes place onboard a spacecraft in the future that is crewed by the last remnants of the human race. They are searching for something that they themselves will never get to see. It is a land too far away for them to experience but they live for the possibility that eventually, a few generations from now, the human race can colonize. Champ, the ship's watchman, receives a vision of a woman and begins to question the mission. This upsets the balance of the crew's delicate lives and could potentially mean the end of mankind. The program helps the audience piece together this much of the plot, which, conceptually, is fascinating.
Director/co-creator Patrick Young has created a world that is a collage of dance, theatre, music, outer space, the future, the past, and pop culture. This is the production's strength as well as its weakness. In a way the collage seems to be peeling up at the edges as it has taken on too much (particularly in the FringeNYC setting) to handle. There is something here and I do believe that with more time and a larger space this production could be quite good. Champ: A Space Opera has the potential to rock, but for now it's just a bit shaky.