By: Genesis Ensemble
Directed by: Kat Paddock
The Charnel House
Love hasn’t changed, but the way we write about it sure has.
Throughout the years, civilization has struggled with communicating, more specifically writing, feelings of love during courtship, dating, marriage, and the loss thereof all together. But it seems that within the past 20 years our eloquence has abandoned us. We’ve become a society of inane “on-the-go” updaters, spilling our most intimate secrets, in a clumsy, 140- characters-or-less-type abbreviation to a world wide audience who doesn’t really even care.
So it begs the question. How has the advent of digital social networking, such as Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, watered down our means of communicating our true feelings on love…or anything else for that matter? The Genesis Ensembles production of In Love’s Bright Coils gives us an honest answer.
In Love’s Bright Coils is a study on how we have expressed our love throughout the past 300 years, to how we express it today. It was inspired by the letters written by director Kat Paddock’s grandparents during World War II. Realizing that the poetic merit of the love letter and the anticipation of waiting for ones reply, has been reduced to instant messaging and emoticons, Paddock is set on finding the lost art of writing down one’s true feelings.
The Charnel House in Logan Square, a converted funeral parlor, is a fitting space for a performance like this. A pallbearer of sorts enters the lobby and escorts the audience down a dark hallway to the theatre area, where the show has already started. Upon entering though, you might be somewhat confused as to who’s a patron and who’s a performer. The actors are darting around the seats and aisles, in a repetitious frenzy, each representing a form of communication. A bit avant-garde, yes, but as the show progresses it all comes together.
This show plays more like a 50 minute poem, rather than a cohesive story, which may put off some theatre goers. A jostling of sorts occurs, going back and forth from love letters written long ago, to the chat logs and Twitter entries from today. But it makes the comparison starker. It’s important to note that the contrast in this performance is not only the way in which we write and communicate, but also the way we view crisis. For example, back during the civil war, sweethearts were seldom reunited, yet today we view whether or not a text message was well received as a life or death moment.
The actors in the Genesis Ensemble deliver the emotion in the letters of the past quite well, and conversely, add comic relief to some of the digital communication foibles of today.
With a minimalist stage setting, there is a heavy reliance on symbolism, specifically, Jake Carr, who represents the one constant…communication. Dressed in all black, Carr plays the invisible Hermes, quite well, but he’s most appreciated by those who embrace metaphysics. The audience seemed to enjoy the show, however, there were those who were obviously not savvy with the social networking scene. If you’re one of those people, then this may be lost on you. But if you appreciate poetry, especially the 1970 E.B. White poem that the shows name is derived from, then you’ll appreciate it.
For the $10 price of admission and the brevity of the performance, it’s worth checking out to expand your horizons. Just don’t expect a conventional theatre experience.
John B. Reinhardt
The Charnel House/ 3421 W. Fullerton Ave. Chicago / $10 general admission / Running time approximately 50 minutes/ August 8th – 29th / Fri-Sat at 8pm Sun at 3pm