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THEATER REVIEW The Raveling
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2019-10-05

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Playwright: Walkabout Ensemble, Fides Krucker, Guild of the Goat & Morgan McNaught

At: Walkabout Theater Company @ Victor Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; walkabouttheater.org; $25. Runs through: Oct. 13

This world premiere from Walkabout Theater is a colorful and accomplished 60 minutes of physical and aural impressions, ever changing like a kaleidoscope, and encompassing the cycle of life, with several representations of birth and death. The eight-person, multi-cultural ensemble is in motion almost constantly—creating group patterns or simultaneous individual actions—and passages spoken or sung are equally varied and overlapping. Indeed, the first time only one person speaks, the silence around him is notable. What you extract from this rich collage of sights and sounds will depend on your individual focus, or even where you are sitting within the intimate, informal arena space.

The main idea is that each of us is a raveling, a loose thread within a larger weaving, and that we have become who we are not only through our own experiences, but through the memories ( and stories, history and myths ) of our parents, grandparents and beyond, all woven into the cloth. "The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life, without flinching or doubt, the stronger the daughter," a female cast member says. On the other hand, another woman says "You remember too much, my mother says to me." Still, the mantra of The Raveling is "You must go back to go forward," a line repeated several times.

The concept of a mantra is appropriate, as this piece was co-created with a Delhi based Indian theater company, Guild of the Goat, and with vocalist Fides Krucker. I've no idea how the co-creation process worked, but the final product—or this version of it—is directed by Thom Pasculli, a skilled specialist in movement and physical theater. He frequently surprises us with arresting and athletic physical images, all perfectly executed by his agile and disciplined ensemble. Those familiar with theater games—such as Circle Mirror Transformation—will delight at how they've been used in the development of the work.

The Raveling is polyglot and international. Its various fragments—and it's a work of fragments—reflect the heritages of the ensemble. India, Spain, France, England, America all are referenced and flash by us. The costumes ( by Myron Elliott-Cisneros ) are charmingly polyglot as well, offering gingham and paisley dresses, dark skirts, jeans, shorts, plaid shirts and shoes from lace up boots to formal flats.

The Raveling lacks characters or a story in the mainstream sense ( it has numerous stories ) and may seem abstract to some. If you expect a conclusion whereby all the ravels are tied up, it won't be your cup of tea ( although you'll be offered a real cuppa before the performance begins ). On the other hand, it's entirely accessible if you let your mind flow freely as the artists have, and find your place within their context.


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