Refugia Secures A Sense Of Belonging
In life we are all looking for a sense of belonging, and a sense of place. The Moving Company’s new captivating play explores this reality of the human condition. Called Refugia, showing at the Guthrie from May 13th through June 11th, the epic work explores a whole cast of lives displaced, and in various stages of geographic transition. The stories are relayed over the course of three hours, through nine intertwining stories of struggle, pain, longing and loss, that take us on our own emotional journey along the way.
This show is all at once heartwarming, and heart breaking, and, at times, completely hilarious. The show effectively shifts from comical to dramatic for alternate takes on what refugees go through, breathing a breath of positivity to some of the very core issues modern nations are grappling with today.
The diverse (and numerous) roles each actor and actress had to play was astounding. One minute you were watching some rednecks at the border patrol talk about what to do with an unaccompanied child - a symbol of any child displaced - from across the border and the next you're watching scared, desperate Syrian refugees trying to get to Berlin, Germany. The dynamism, emotional flexibility and well-roundedness these actors and actresses displayed in crafting these tales deserved a standing ovation on their own. As a collective they received it, with a burst of energy from he crowd as the emotions welled.
Throughout the dialogue-driven chapters of Refugia, the words moved along with physical storytelling too. The highlight of the movement was the centerpiece of the show - a beautifully executed dance number performed by Kendra ‘Vie Boheme’ Dennard. The dance number embodied the compassion, empathy, and passion behind the story itself, marked by quiet moments filled with quiet gestures.
Among the talented, stellar cast, Actor Nathan Keeper was a standout. Each role was absolutely hilarious and diverse. He played a musician trying to get out of the USSR and into Israel and a gender-fluid librarian. Keeper not only acted but also co-wrote the show along with fellow cast-member, Steven Epp, and the director Dominique Serrand.
The set was as flexible, dramatic and dynamic as the actors. It was modern, heavy, large and overbearing as it effectively transformed through sound and light and served as several different remote and intimate locations all around the world. The steel and corrugated aluminum structure was a character of the play unto itself, it grounded the show in an enticing and realistic environment.
The visuals, sound, and interesting makeup techniques used in Refugia elevated the production significantly into world-class territory. Here we are introduced to something different than anything We have seen before - this is theater at its very best, dramatic and intense in every gleam of light, shift of sound and glimmer of sweat. The sound for war planes and bombs dropping around you put you in the place of what strain refugees are going through everyday. All I have to say to Scott W. Edwards, the sound designer, is bravo. The makeup techniques used on Steven Epp allowed the character to age right before our very eyes - an incredible feat of artistry that itself seemed to transcend the time and place the character was resisting. With a rub of his face with a towel as if to wipe off water or sweat and his face and hair, a young man emerged as an elderly man.
Together, these elements pulled the audience in, somehow transporting us as though we are in the show experiencing these conflicts. No scene demonstrates this better than when Nathan Keeper’s musician gives a speech on the beauty of music, as we fully are enveloped in a present moment and transported through time to a past moment where one man and one woman's experience searching for a sense of belonging, their sense of place reaches a dynamic crescendo. It's moving, and touching and present in only the way live theater can.
Refugia introduces us, if just for span of nine intertwining tales, to stories of love, loss, and forgiveness, and in doing so we more closely understand our own human condition, and the importance of our own belonging.