So here are a couple of reviews. And, of course, ticket information for our remaining three shows: https://kc-fringe.ticketleap.com/red-death/dates
Those who have attended performances at KC Fringe though the years expect to see something unusual, but few of us have seen anything quite like “Red Death.”
This one-act chamber opera from composer Daniel Doss and writer Bryan Colley offers a concise 40 minutes of vivid gothic horror filled with impressionistic images. The show, directed by Tara Varney and choreographed by Amy Hurrelbrink, is almost as much dance theater as it is opera.
This adaptation of “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe tells the tale of Prince Prospero, who retreats to his castle for a night of revelry with his entourage and servants while a plague ravages the countryside.
According to the program, Colley’s libretto borrows not only from Poe, but from the Roman poet/philosopher Lucretius Carus, Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne and Ecclesiastes in the Bible, but I confess that I’m too meager a scholar to comment on Colley’s choices. I can say that his libretto is loaded with compelling images.
Doss’ lush score, performed by pianist Michalis Koutsoupides, is darkly romantic, often returning to a haunting waltz-time motif. The music is so compelling that you can easily imagine what it would sound like performed by a full orchestra.
Tenor Nathan Granner plays Prospero with Shakespearean flair and his voice, as usual, is mesmerizing. Soprano Devon Barnes is impressive as Prospero’s unnamed servant, whose perception of the futility of existence draws her magnetically toward death.
Many Fringe shows are bare-bones affairs but this one shimmers, thanks to a delicate, evocative lighting design by Shane Rowse and elegant costumes designed and created by Varney and her collaborators. A cadre of dancers create dreamlike stage pictures.
In essence, this piece is a 19th-century meditation on death, but the combination of music, dance, creative lighting and inventive costumes will linger in the viewer’s memory.
|The Fringe, bless its heart, brings us lots of work-in-progress: artists
taking advantage of the chance to stage new work, to see how new scripts play
before live audiences: simply staged, cut to suit the Festival's crowded
schedule — gems in the rough. But here's one that I'd call a gem, cut and
polished, all its facets working together: "Red Death" is an
I blame opera’s social trappings for burying its roots as popular entertainment. Bugs Bunny parodies, if not direct personal experience, leave us with nightmare fantasies of being trapped in swollen Wagnerian productions that just won't end. Never fear! "Red Death" packs its powerful punch in record time: I clocked Friday's opening performance at just 32 minutes.
This will leave you time to admire Bryan Colley's libretto, available on the "Red Death Lyrics" sheet on a table by the Off Center Theatre door. Its story is adapted mainly from Edgar Allan Poe's familiar "Masque of the Red Death, with credited infusions from more esoteric sources (Lucretius, Montaigne and Ecclesiastes). This gem is set by composer Daniel Doss and brought to brilliant musical life by two outstanding singers — tenor Nathan Granner and soprano Devon Barnes — with pianist Michalis Koutsoupides filling in for the orchestra.
But opera is the original multi-medium, and director Tara Varney, ably supported by choreographer Amy Hurrelbrink, has marshaled an artistic team that has these three musicians surrounded and outnumbered. Varney's family, with Hurrelbrink's help, has costumed a cast that includes five fine dancers. Chelsea Anglemyer, Josh Atkins, Tyler Parsons and Tiffany Powell join the choreographer herself in animating that silent threat that's inspired Granner's Prince Prospero to attempt their protection as guests in his party. Dance sequences flow smoothly into and out of the singing as the dancers support and advance the action. Actor Coleman Crenshaw needs no words — only his sinister, masked presence — to spoil the fun as the Uninvited Guest. But no spoiler alert is needed: even if you've somehow missed reading Poe, the title itself reminds us of the inevitable.
Colley has brought his economical art not only to the libretto, but also to the stage setting, subtly enlivened by Shane Rowse's dramatic lighting. The lyrics sheet spells out his scheme rather more distinctly than it has felt in performance. Varney's direction brings all these elements and actors together in a performance that embodies the essential power of opera.
Which you experience this week, quite cheaply and without any dress code. You will not leave the theater humming any of Doss's tunes. But you will be impressed by what a company of hard-working artists can do with a little space and a little of your time as their audience.