Reviewed by Marc Wheeler
A group of frustrated earthlings find themselves in a nebulous state of Limbo after physical death leads them to a mirror-faced man in full-body spandex.
No, this isn’t a comedy, but a philosophical reflection on the meaning of life and death told with movement, sound, spoken dialogue and multimedia projections. Lofty projects like this can easily fall into the category of Artsy Fartsy when they aren’t well-executed. Such is the case of IamI at Theatre Asylum, by writer/director Shawn Brown.
After a Big Bang of sorts we meet mother Aila (Kristin Tripe) as she gives daughter Jesny (Alix Schwartz) — yes, Jesny — a “magic stone” of protection to use if she ever feels sad, scared or lonely. Good thing, that stone, as Jesny soon finds herself motherless after Aila drowns herself.
Upon awakening, Aila discovers (surprise!) she didn’t die, and the mirror-faced creature in black spandex who greets her isn’t Death, but a curious cosmic entity named Iam (Erik Dabrowski) who inquires on human ideas of nakedness, love and mortality. After realizing quickly this outer-space afterlife isn’t what she requested, she gets him to strangle her to death — until she wakes up. So much for suicide.
We soon meet more who’ve passed through death’s door. First off, Deos (Tom Lucein), a shirtless blonde sporting an explosives belt and gym shorts who feels duped he hasn’t become a god upon his death as promised, but instead gets to hang with Aila, Iam and another spandexed-creature The Being (Nathan Nonhof) who always seems to be lurking about. Then explorer Wellesley Kelvin (Gabriel Meltz) and his female friend Feriluc Maydie (Molly Connor) — these names, I swear — who argue about the insecurities of aging after drinking from the poisonous Fountain of Youth. Next up are others billed as Reality and Ensemble played by Isaiah Baez, Talia Cartall and Sydney McDonald.
What follows is a series of celestial explorations, from the physical travels in the cosmic playground to the heady inquiries of Purpose, Meaning and Truth, all wrapped in packaged platitudes and vague abstractions. The movement in this piece, paralleling the plot, isn’t quite the polished choreography that could have elevated the story, relying more on nebulous performance-art posturing to give the impression of the other-worldly. All-over-the-map costuming, too, ranges from symbolic and eclectic to realistic and disheveled.
It’s clear by now that IamI is in over its head, with performers doing an adequate job despite the material. That’s not to say it’s all without merit. Beautiful original music by Ben Kruse and Kerri Shak provide a meditative ambience. Astral projections by video designer Trey Gilmore create a stunning backdrop on which to tell the tale. Sound Design by Sam Sewell and lighting design by Theatre Asylum’s Beth (last name not billed) are both effective in creating The Beyond.
Tzipora Reman is production manager, stage manager, props manager, technical director and producer. Shawn Brown is assistant video designer.
While experimentation in theatrical art forms is to be applauded, and exploring the meaning of life is admirable, Alternative Art Styles’ IamI goes by way of its characters and gets lost in its own cosmic Limbo.