Epona’s Labyrinth at HERE

Saturday afternoon took Culturebot to HERE Arts Center to see The South WIng‘s Epona’s Labyrinth.

Created by The South Wing in collaboration with Japan’s Nibroll Art Collective, Epona’s Labyrinth tells the story of a man whose wife is mysteriously abducted by an ambulance and taken to a sinister hospital. In seeking her out, her husband, gets ensnared in a labyrinth of evil doctors, twisted nurses and strange sexual/medical experiments.

Visually, this is one of the most sophisticated and stunning shows I’ve seen in a while in a downtown venue. The sound design is haunting and relentless. The lighting and video are beautiful and immersive. Central to the design is a massive four-paneled wall that serves as projection surface and set piece – it is moved around the stage and reconfigured into a huge box and many other shapes to suggest various locations. There are also these modular set pieces that interlock and serve as chairs, ladders, tables. The scenography in its entirety is amazingly well-integrated, each separate element working seamlessly together. Clean white surfaces meet digital projections meet elegantly designed set pieces – it is like a vast interlocking Rubik’s cube that is constantly moving and changing shape. It is definitely evocative of the eponymous labyrinth, creating a dizzying sensation of being lost. No matter what direction you choose to go, you end up in another dead end.

The performers are all great, with a particular shout-out to Sophia Remolde who plays a creepy, sex-starved nurse and Ximena Garnica who plays a disturbing role as an abused 13 year-old girl. Very unnerving.

The cast performs admirably in a hybrid style that mixes highly stylized movement with grotesquely presentational characterization. If anything, I think it could have gone even further in this direction – been even more abstract and less psychological. The performers race through the script, which is the least fully realized part of the show. The story is dark and creepy and you get a pretty good sense of it rather quickly – what actually happens seems almost secondary to the overall visual and stylistic effect of the piece. Director Kameron Steele has worked with both Tadashi Suzuki and Robert Wilson and those influences are evident. It makes for a fascinating contemporary cultural hybrid.

I found that the story dragged at times and the script could have used some tightening up. The actors’ energetic performances helped mitigate it somewhat, but generally the show could benefit from some editing. There were some parts that could have slowed down and been played to more disturbing effect, while other parts could have been edited out entirely.

Overall, though, Epona’s Labyrinth is a very impressive piece of theater and shows the benefits of having had a three-year development timeline at HERE as part of the HARP Program. It is a meticulously detailed and well-crafted work with excellent performances and a compelling story.

Check it out. Epona’s Labyrinth plays at HERE Arts Center through April 23rd.

Epona’s Labyrinth
Created by The South Wing
in collaboration with Nibroll art collective
Written by Ivana Catanese & Kameron Steele

Directed by Kameron Steele
Choreography: Mikuni Yanaihara
Writing Collaboration: The South Wing and Maria Godoy
Lights: Ayumu “Poe” Saegusa
Costumes: Mitsushi Yanaihara
Video: Keisuke Takahashi
Sets: Shige Moriya
Sound & Original Music: SKANK
Stage Manager: Catherine Coffey
Performers: Gillian Chadsey, Davina Cohen*, Gabel Eiben, Ximena Garnica, Nathan Guisinger, Sophia Remolde, Andrew Shulman*, Benjamin Stuber, Kate Villanova

Dramaturgical Advisor: Pete McCabe
Managing Producer (The South Wing):
Ivana Catanese

*AEA Members Equity Approved Showcase

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