Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Passage - 7th House Theater at the Guthrie

Alejandro Vega (and Bob Beverage.)
Photo by Amy Anderson.
The Passage: or, What Comes of Searching in the Dark is a personal and touching new musical by the ambitious young company 7th House Theater,

With music, lyrics and book by company member David Darrow, The Passage is at Guthrie's Dowling Studio (now through December 4). 7th House Theater, which previously created The Great Work and Jonah and the Whale, works in a very collaborative process--the show is credited as created and directed by 7th House Theater

Eleven-year-old Albert comes home from school to a house with a monster in the basement, so he spends a lot of time in his backyard tent when he isn't braving the perils of the cracked driveway to take out the trash for his harried mom. His new next-door neighbor, Cassie, decides to help him find and fight the basement monster.

Alejandro Vega is perfectly cast as Albert. He has an impressive roster of stage credits, including as Danny in the Minnesota Opera's recent premiere of The Shining. He plays both the childlike enthusiasm and the onset of maturity with aplomb. As Cassie, Mary Bair is almost eerily mature, spouting off facts and algorithms with the same calm she uses to discuss her absent father. Lara Trujillo and Bob Beverage play Albert's parents,

Grant Sorenson (Ensemble), Lara Trujillo (Mom), Alejandro Vega 
(Albert Grissom),and Cat Brindisi (Ensemble). Photo by Amy Anderson.
A bare stage with just a few moving pieces represents Albert's house, backyard, Cassie's house, and the far reaches of Albert's imagination. A barefoot, gray-clad ensemble act as narrators and other characters, building, populating, and narrating the scenes.

The Passage is very much about growing up and coming to terms with the non-imaginary dangers of real life. Along the way, childhood beliefs and memories are celebrated and challenged in songs.

The music is lovely, and the sparse instrumentation (orchestrated by Thomas Speltz) seems to fit the style perfectly. The three musicians (John Lynn, piano; Kristian Anderson, guitar; and Courtney van Claff, cello) provide just enough sound to allow the beautiful harmonies of the ensemble (Cat Brindisi, Derek Prestly, Grant Sorenson, and Kendall Anne Thompson) to soar.

The show is not long (about 75 minutes with no intermission), but feels like it tries for too many layers of metaphor. Just as the show should be easing Albert toward reality, it adds unnecessary and somewhat heavy-handed symbolism. The Passage is an ambitious new work, but would benefit from some streamlining to emphasize the heart of the story.

If you are undecided whether this show is for you, note that it is part of the Level Nine Initiative and tickets are only $9. Try something new! Check out the promo video below: