Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: A Trip to the Moon

Karen O’Connell as Laika and Katrina Clark as the Moon in Synetic Theater’s production of A Trip to the Moon. Photo credit: Johnny Shryock.

Over the course of this theatrical season’s start, I’ve seen three productions that represent (for me, anyway) the future direction of theater: Folger Theatre’s The Conference of the Birds, Synetic Theater’s A Trip to the Moon, and Studio Theatre’s The Aliens. Though each style follows a different track, all three are dedicated to resuscitating the living magic of the stage. As a consequence, I’m more excited about theater at this moment than I have been in a long time.

“Following” may not really be the right verb for visionary director Natsu Onoda Power, who takes the digital and makes it flesh in A Trip to the Moon. Earlier this year, Onoda Power showed us a daring combination of technical innovation and wistful emotion with Astro Boy and the God of Comics at The Studio 2ndStage. I loved it. So did Paata Tsikurishvili, artistic director of Synetic Theater, who consequently was inspired to ask the Georgetown professor to create a piece for his award-winning company. The fact that opportunities for such collaboration exist now in DC is cause for an ovation itself.

A Trip to the Moon is a paen to our very human need to understand that cold, lonely orb in the sky – we dream of it, we long to possess it, we both love and fear it. The safe choice would be to concentrate on the ethereal, romantic quality of its beauty – but we’re in the realm of risk-takers here, so there’s an attraction/repulsion aspect to this production instead. It’s not as balletic as previous Synetic offerings, and gives us goofy space explorers, glowstick hair, and moon dogs sniffing each other’s butts.

Risk-taking means there will be flaws. But there will also be brilliance.

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Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Astro Boy and the God of Comics

(l to r) Betsy Rosen, Clark Young, Lee Liebeskind, and JB Tadena in Astro Boy and the God of Comics. Photo: Carol Pratt

“Who is Astro Boy? Where did he come from?”

That phrase was repeated in an audio loop, flowing over cheerful marching music, while actors furiously drew cartoons of an impending horror. It might as well have been my own question, coming into Astro Boy and the God of Comics at The Studio 2ndStage without any prior knowledge of artist Osamu Tezuka or of his cartoon creations. That phrase seemed to be the lynchpin of the play’s meaning. It stayed with me for several days, running through my mind, unwilling to be forgotten.

A real boy dies in a horrible accident. A robot boy is created to take his place.

Created and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Astro Boy and the God of Comics is a seventy minute riff on creation and destruction from both the creative and historical angles. We learn about the brilliant Tezuka through episodes presented in reverse chronological order – seamless mash-ups of live action, video, projections and puppetry. It’s a dizzying concoction that might almost seem gimmicky if it weren’t for the production’s total commitment to the bright-eyed, vivid intensity of comics.

Honestly? It might be a bit genius.

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