Red Fly/Blue Bottle, the title of a music-theater show at HERE, recurs in a memorable song that bookends the work. Christina Campanella wrote the haunting, melodious music, with words by Stephanie Fleischmann; Mallory Catlett directs. Old meets new in the Jim Findlay-designed set that resembles an attic, dense with antique clocks, audio/visual equipment, insect imagery. The detritus is interspersed with geometric white panels that serve as screens or scrims and slide laterally to create or take apart rooms.
Video elements by Peter Norrman and Mirit Tal are scattered across the theater, at times serving as a kind of tangible memory, sketchpad, or remote scene. The cast (including vocalists Jesse Hawley and Chris Lee, actor Black-Eyed Susan, plus music/text performed by Campanella, Sam Baker, and Erich Schoen-Rene) inhabits all corners of the set, appearing and disappearing with regularity, aided by Miranda Hardy’s lighting.
The team behind Red Fly/Blue Bottle (presented by HERE and Latitude 14 and developed through a HERE Artist Residency Program) has put together an intriguing, richly layered work of music-theater that resists categorization, for better or worse. It’s a problem faced by new multi-media or cross-genre performances that are ostensibly created to shatter convention, and do.
In the end, however, it’s necessary to follow existing protocol and convince the public to attend—it has to be marketed. After seeing a rehearsal of Red Fly (video excerpt here), it seemed like a Sisyphean task to distill the essence of a show that might have been very loosely shaped when all the marketing and press materials were on deadline. This is where a presenter’s reputation comes in. Time to trust HERE’s sixteen years of experience and savor the efforts from creative team for Red Fly.
Even fully formed, Red Fly can’t be easily summarized. Its many layers of overarching themes and elements overlap, reveal, and eventually accrue to form a unique and lasting vision in each viewer’s mind. It’s too bad that “music-theater” simply doesn’t do justice to it—much like calling Anna Karenina “words on paper.”
Go see it and help coin a genre; it’s ripe for the picking.
Photo of Jesse Hawley by Jessica Fleischmann.