A Winter Gathering - Sleeping Weazel

A Winter Gathering - Sleeping Weazel

 Pictured: Blair Nodelman, Adara Meyers and Veronica Anastasio Wiseman

Pictured: Blair Nodelman, Adara Meyers and Veronica Anastasio Wiseman

A Winter Gathering – Sleeping Weazel

Review by James Wilkinson

A Winter Gathering is presented by Sleeping Weazel. Production designer: Mirta Tocci. Lighting Designer: Colin McNamee. Sound Designer: Oliver Seagle. 

When I walked into Sleep Weazel’s production of A Winter Gathering, I had been awake for thirteen hours and had probably spent about a good third of that time staring at my phone. Not for any sort of emergency purpose, just the regular checking of email, Facebook, text messages and blogs that has slowly grown to be the new normal of daily activity. I went into the theater space with the sort of addled static brain feeling that comes from spending so much time with your eyeballs glued to the glowing screen of a handheld device. I don’t tell you this as a brag or a complaint; I only want to explain my state of mind as I went into the production. I think my brain was desperate for some person to person connection. Thankfully, that’s what I got. Perhaps it’s odd to praise a show that is so reliant on technology as an escape from technology, but that’s just what I’m going to do. Sleeping Weazel’s curated evening of new music and multimedia performance is a delightful reminder of how much pleasure there can be in allowing yourself to be open to the moment and listening to the people in front of you. 

The evening is an impressive collection of musical and performance talent. Thread Ensemble (Andria Nicodemou, Rachel Pantich and Abigale Reisman) opens the show, performing (with an assist from the audience) their composition for two violins and a xylophone, a conversational/musical interlude on home. This is followed by a performance piece, nostos//algos, devised and performed by Ioana B. Jucan with Amanda L. Andrei, Maurice Emerson Decaul, Juwon Jun and Jing Xu. We’re then treated to another musical performance for the violin, River Rising and Alone Together, composed by Kristen Volness. Finally there’s Picture This, another devised piece created by Adara Meyers and directed by Natalya Baldyga. 

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I enjoyed about the performance as a whole because the production hit me on an emotional level rather than an intellectual one. For the musical performances, there’s no inherent narrative structure in music for me to describe. I can’t plot the evening by saying that this happened, then this happened, then this happened. If I attempted to do that, all I’d be able to say is that instruments were played and that hardly speaks to how wonderfully enjoyable the musical performances were. Likewise, the devised pieces act as a kind of physical poetry. They rely on the power of images blending into new images, rather than on traditional storytelling. If I try to break the images down into their individual parts, they’ll only lose their power. 

There’s a wonderful intimacy to this evening of performances and I think the pieces work best when you allow yourself to let go and get lost in the sights and sounds in front of you. If you manage to do so, (like I did), there are moment of sublime beauty to be found. I loved having the haunting echoes of Thread Ensembles’ music surround me. I found myself oddly moved by Volness’ composition into a warm melancholy feeling. I can’t logically justify how or why that happened, I can only point to the fact that I did. 

Likewise, there are some powerful stage images found in nostos//algos and Picture This that stuck with me as I left the theater, though I can’t say why. A waterfall of sand coming out of a bottle. The back of a woman as she stares out of a window. A collection of suitcases. The opening of a package. These pieces are built on these quiet moments where the audience is allowed to sit with what they’re seeing and marvel at the beauty. I thought that nostos//algos especially did a fine job crafting beautiful images in the theater space. There were so many points where I felt I could snap a photograph of what was in front of me and have the image exist as a work of art on its own. Picture This has an emotional core that didn’t hit me until the final moments of the piece, but when it did, it’s a doozy. 

Sadly, Sleeping Weazel’s production has a “blink and you’ll miss it” element to it. This production only runs for one more weekend and then it’s gone. If you have the chance, I recommend that you go and let this intimate production work its magic on you. Allow the sights and sounds wash over you and you may be surprised as to where you end up.

A Winter Gathering is presented by Sleeping Weazel in the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, February 15-24, 2018.

For tickets and more information, visit their website at: www.sleepingweazel.com

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