By Lauren Yarger
Here Lies Love running Off-Broadway at the Public Theater quickly separates audience goers into one of two categories: The "young and hip" or the "old and traditional."
Attendees check their coats and bags at the door and enter a happening dance club, complete with flashing lights and video displays for an hour and a half of the dance club scene with a driving, pulsing beat (M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, sound design). Wranglers clad in fluorescent-pink jump suits direct the constantly moving crowd throughout the performance. There are no seats so if you aren't prepared (or able) to stand for the duration, you will have to invest in one of the few box seats available on a second level overlooking the action taking place on the floor. Where the DJ is housed for you "old and traditional" theatergoers.
Suddenly the crowd becomes the people of the Philippines and the story of former President and First Lady Ferdinand (Jose Llana) and Imeda (Ruthie Ann Miles) Marcos is playing out across five different staging platforms, all of which move and change during the presentation and through video projection (David Korins designs the set; Peter Nigrini designs the projections).
The exhilarating show was conceived by David Byrne (from the music world's Talking Heads and Luaka Bop), who writes the lyrics. He teams to write the score with Fatboy Slim, also known as Norman Cook who first rose to fame as the bassist with The Housemartins (additional music is by Tom Candey and J. Pardo). The genius behind making everything work is Director Alex Timbers who brought us that other nontraditional rock history musical, the riotously funny Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
The part karaoke tribute (that was invented in the Philippines, we're told) and part history lesson about the couple's rise and fall is non-stop, with virtually no dialogue. Much of the action is presented through Annie-B Parson's fresh choreography. The actors make numerous costume changes (designed by Clint Ramos), some of them almost break-away to keep up with the pace (loved the printed A-line dresses).
When the jumpsuited ushers aren't directing you out of the way of the revolving center platform, the lighting by designer Justin Townsend guides you to the next bit of action. Once you leave, the contagious strains of the title song keep pulling you back to the experience.
Mostly young people, smiling and clearly enjoying the experience all the way through, comprised the crowd the night I attended. It's interactive, immersing theater with a 360-degree view and it quite possibly might change the theater experience as we know it. I'd like to think that because I managed to stand for duration and enjoyed the experience, though I normally loathe interactive theater, I can classify myself as belonging to the "young and hip" rather than to the "old and traditional" group. Or at least the "young and hip at heart" category.
Here Lies Love is extended at the The Public, 425 Lafayette St., NYC, through June 30. Performances Tuesday through Thursday at 8:30 pm; Friday and saturday at 5 and 9:30 pm; Sunday at 6 pm. Tickets start at $89: (212) 967-7555; www.publictheater.org.
The show lasts about 100 minutes without intermission. There is no place to sit on the floor level or anywhere to put your bag down, so be prepared and wear comfortable shoes. Wheelchairs can be accommodated on the floor level. Dancing is ncouraged. warnings for smoke, haze, gunshots and loud music.
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