Part of Torn Space Theater's Original Performance Series
TERMINUS: A finishing point. A point of origin. A post or stone marking a boundary. The first limiting point in time.
TERMINUS: The split occurring. The embryo forming. The destruction arriving.
A wondrous and profound evening of theater was developed through a great collaboration. It was written and directed by Dan Shanahan, with Audio Visual designed by Aaron Miller. And the central character Muriel was exquisitely realized by Melissa Meola.
You entered through a corridor defined by banks of florescent lights at chin level, creating a mysterious sense that you were entering a different universe. Which you were. The set and lighting and use of space in the old terminal put you into a supernatural and enlarged world, where Muriel was overseen by huge “custodians,” who guarded the thresholds of the stages that Muriel must go through to end the growing destruction. This echoed many myth progressions, yet was a unique creation.
The prologue was a Human Sacrifice, interrupted yet continued by the character (played by Tim McPeek) continuing on a tortuous ropeline throughout the rest of the performance.
The audience was banked on one side of the long hall. The large space was magnificently used by heroic figures at each end of the hall and many varying spaces in the middle, including the tall custodians reaching high into upper windows. Light and shade were used in many different ways to define or suggest spaces, and slides or videos were used also, bringing the microscopic to huge proportions. Every once in a while a huge concatenation of sound, light, and movement would disrupt the action with a sense of doom and urgency.
The exploits were there to be experienced rather than analyzed. The journey was one of wonder and overcoming, not necessarily to a final conclusion, but to a higher plane of discovery.
Memorable moments in the progress included the singing of the Mother, played by Sharon Strait. Atop a huge pyramidal dress, she sang German lieder and lullabies with great beauty and restrained feeling. These added to the poignancy of Muriel being so physically distant, having been taken from her mother. Also, the sublime movement of the Protective Figure (Becky Globus), which guided and helped Muriel through the thresholds including giving birth, the poised drama of the Mother Goddess (Kara McKenny) and the strange hovering danger figure with red lights under it’s torso.
Although there were intimate moments, the general scale of the spectacle, sound, emotions, and transitions was monumental. The audience was consistently involved by all this, and left wondering at all the designers, crew, and cast of Torn Space Theater had presented.
And what an appropriate use of the spatial grandeur of The Central Terminal.
Terminus, the new Dan Shanahan piece currently being performed at the Central Terminal picks up on his earlier work, Muriel Vanderbilt Goes Walking, as the central character, Muriel, played by Melissa Meola, “confronts four stages of herself.” The event takes full advantage of its spectacular Central Terminal setting with a poetic and ambitious venture into audio- and video-enhanced performance.
Shanahan’s vision for his Torn Space company blazes a wide path across the theatrical landscape, and with Terminus he pushes his efforts beyond the limits of pure theater into performance art. Terminus is not built on narrative or characters in conflict. Instead, like poetry, the piece is constructed of compelling images which evoke great power while they resist definitive understanding. These visual moments are often quite arresting, as when Sharon Strait, as Mother, stands in a large, lighted dress structure at the far end of the terminal, beneath the gigantic arch of window and sings; or when Ryan O’Bryne, as Harold, enters the space from the far end of the room, dragging a large, rolling cart into the space, stops to untie the Human Sacrifice, played by Tim McPeek, and continues on his way. Shanahan often uses Bonita Z to excellent effect (she appeared in Muriel Vanderbilt Goes Walking) and here perches her high atop of a staircase in a sort of expressionistic high chair.
These moments are potent with possible interpretation but defy perfect comprehension. A great part of the pleasure of the performance is audience efforts to penetrate profoundly personal and cryptic material that makes use of images common to all of us. Aaron Miller’s excellent audio, video and set designs deserve particular mention. At a number of points, I momentarily mistook his digital images for living people. His work greatly enriches Terminus, an environmental experience that begins when the audience first enters Central Terminal through a corridor of fluorescent lamps and does not lag until the final unsettling moment. In addition to those mentioned above, the able cast includes Candace Lukasik as Muriel’s Younger Self; GregGreg and Dan Toner as Bonita Z’s fellow Custodians; Becky Globus as Protective Figure; and Kara McKenny as Mother Goddess.