Make no mistake, Epona’s Labyrinth is ruled by neither Pan nor David Bowie. It is instead presided over by a group of physically agile actors, innovative set and costume designs, and well-integrated technology. The plot is complex, but the overall aesthetic qualities of the play are what drive the production forward. I do not pretend to understand every nuance of the narrative, but I do know that this did not (and indeed does not) bother me. The unity of the production as a whole is beautiful to behold, and I greatly appreciate the attention to detail obvious in each moment of the action. HERE’s wonderful space is well utilized by The South Wing and Nibroll art collective, as technology and highly trained actors transform it into a variety of different environments. The basic plot is that Husband (Andrew Shulman) goes to the hospital to search for his wife after she is suddenly taken away in a green ambulance. He immediately begins to have strange experiences, and he is soon deeply imbedded in the strange hospital’s inner workings, which follow the pattern of many a classic myth. The various locations are all established by means of the actors’ bodies and the ingeniously versatile set pieces conceived by designer Shige Moriya. Mitsushi Yanaihara’s surreal costume designs add to the mystery, and the combination of the technical elements achieves an excellent balance with the acting.
As someone who has had a good deal of Suzuki actor training, and who has recently become familiar with Butoh, it is obvious to me that these actors, and Director Kameron Steele, are very familiar with both Suzuki and Butoh. This is evident in the actors’ physical control of their bodies, as well as in the character of the movement itself. Suzuki technique teaches you a great deal about the connection between breathing and motion by teaching you to move from your core. This training, also evident in Butoh, allows actors to achieve fluid motion at a slow pace, and also to execute quick, strong, extreme motions accurately and safely, which is obvious in this production. The set changes often show this slow, controlled movement, while the first scene in the hospital is a perfect example of the crisp, energetic, and highly choreographed chaos possible with physically trained actors.
Mikuni Yanaihara’s choreography is an excellent tool throughout the production, though I must say that the large group scenes are superior to the one-on-one fight moments. Girl (Ximena Garnica), Teen (Kate Villanova), and Head Nurse (Sophia Remolde) are the standout performers in terms of this movement, though Epona (Gillian Chadsey) has a stage presence full of power and authority, even though her choreography is not as involved. All the while Shulman alternates between providing a bodily contrast with the stylization around him, and joining in on it. This precise direction is mirrored in the ways in which props and set changes are handled: a plate slides in under a lifted screen, Garnica is carried in hanging gracefully from a set piece, and each set piece moves easily in the capable hands of the actors.
Another major strength of this production is the integration of technology. The projections, videos, and sounds are characters in the play. From symbolic graphics that seem to subliminally highlight the themes of the scene, to video replays of what we have just seen, the audiovisual elements insert themselves into the scenes in a surprisingly natural way. By “natural” I mean to say that there is no question that these elements belong here, in this world. This also allows the actors to interact with these technical aspects. There is one scene in particular where Villanova’s Teen interacts with the entire stage as she plays a “video game” in which she attacks a certain symbol with a broom.
Now I should also mention that there is a certain amount of adult content in this show, so it is not for children. But if you and your adult friends would like to go see something very creative, aesthetically exciting, and artistically solid, then go ahead and enter the labyrinth. Just remember (as Epona reminds us): from the middle of the labyrinth, every path looks like the exit to freedom.