29 September 2015

The Electric “Elements of Oz”

Elements of Oz is a new stage/video show that seems to combine an homage to the MGM movie with Ozma’s Magic Picture. (Which, as we all know, can show you any place or person you ask to see.)

Here’s a taste of the review in today’s New York Times:
At “Elements of Oz,” having its premiere as part of the Peak Performances season at Montclair State University here, viewers are encouraged to use smartphones or tablets during the performance. . . . You download a special app that instructs you to put your phone in airplane mode until the show starts. The app then provides access to various elements that enhance the production, primarily nifty filters that, when you point the phone at the stage, add new layers of imagery to the action. When Dorothy’s house in Kansas flies skyward, for example, you can hold up your phone and see a real corker of a tornado and slashing rain that isn’t apparent to the naked eye.

Directed by Marianne Weems, “Elements of Oz” was jointly created by James Gibbs and Moe Angelos. Ms. Angelos is also one of the three performers, alongside Sean Donovan and Hannah Heller. A loose, loopy and enjoyable seminar on the making of the movie and its influence on pop culture, the production combines live video and performance — several famous scenes from the movie are more or less filmed anew before us — with anecdotes about its production and other random arcana about the film and the book it was based on by L. Frank Baum. . . .

The live re-creations of scenes from the movie are technically marvelous; the digital video (by Austin Switser) is dazzlingly pristine, and it’s fun, at least for a while, to watch the wry comic impersonations of the performances in the movie. . . . But ultimately these sequences don’t provide enough comic stimulation to justify their length. It begins to feel a bit too much like a draggy day on the back lot, and you might find yourself tempted to escape the app and fire up the real movie on your phone…
The performers, who each play multiple roles, all get praise, as does Bert Lahr.