Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Excavation

You’ve Got to See It To Believe It: THE EXCAVATION at Theater Ninjas

Anyone who has ever been to a Theatre Ninja’s production knows that Jeremy Paul, the theatre’s guiding force and Artistic Director, doesn’t like “normal” theatre. He doesn’t pick plays or develop the ordinary. Being inside Paul’s head must be like being in a labyrinth of a fun house. Weird visions must swirl around and around. The results of Paul’s creativity are usually fascinating and confounding theatre. THE EXCAVATION, Ninja’s latest invention, is no exception.

Now consider this. Theatre Ninjas “home” is part of a floor of rooms in an old abandoned industrial building. The building has been transformed into a home for the arts. The area that the Ninjas use is basically a wreck. So, if you are Paul, what do you do? You, of course, excavate the space to see what’s there. What’s there, in Paul’s mind, is Pompeii. I kid you not.

The Roman city of Pompeii was completely buried during the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius over a span of two days in 79 AD. The city disappeared in about 6 yards of ash. It remained hidden until about 1600 when excavations gave the modern world insight into life at the height of the Roman Empire.

Paul, clipboard in hand, and a group of “guides” take the audience, who are divided into self-formed groups, each going through different experiences, to celebrate the life, death and re-discovery of Pompeii. The “guides” are rhetoricians, scientists, puppeteers, dead bodies and science fair addicts, who lead us from room to room in a labyrinth of exhibits and galleries dedicated to the doomed city. As Paul explains, “blending live action, music and visual art, this interactive museum examines the way people reveal themselves when digging into the past.” (Okay, if he says so.)

The format takes us back to the happenings of the 1960s, blended with fantasy flicks, as they intersect with the Discovery and History channels.

At times the production is not an easy sit. Well, most of the time the audience is not sitting, but following the performers from place to place, being active participants in a weird adventure as they traverse through the museum shop (yes, artifacts are sold), the Main Gallery, Via Donotorem, the Catacomb entrance, the Amphitheater, Shrine, Tomb, House of Mysteries and the Observatory.

I actually learned a great deal about volcanos (eg., when Mentos are mixed with soda, explosions occur), the history of Pompeii (or Paul’s version of it), how long I can stand while shifting my weight from foot to foot, and how much fun a classic Punch and Judy show can be.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: It must be quite an experience to live inside the head of Jeremy Paul. You can get a glimpse of by attending THE EXCAVATION. It’s an evening of invention, humor, and the bizarre.