A Tale of Love and Tarot
Written & directed by Eli Keel
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Meg Wallace, Victoria Baumgarten, & Sterling Pratt in A Tale of Love and Tarot. Photo by Bull Brymer.
Somewhere in the last decade or so, the phrase “mash-up” rose to prominence in popular culture. Originating, I believe, from the fluid shifting within the world of music, it has probably worn out its welcome at this point. In the world of theatre it actually designates an idea that was in evidence long before the words were ever spoken aloud. A deliberate intersection of disciplines to expand the range of creative expression is nothing new.
Yet this collaboration of written script, dance, and aerial movement in A Tale of Love and Tarot strikes me as nothing less than innovative amongst local companies. The Louisville Ballet recently featured spoken word accompaniment, and musicals are an obvious example of the merging of disciplines, but what Eli Keel and his team are attempting here is a deeper, more meaningful integration of contrasting forms.(Mr. Keel is a free-lance writer and occasional contributor to Arts-Louisville.com)
The one act show centers on Arthur Edward Waite, a renowned Tarot scholar who created The Rider-Waite deck, as he educates a Fool about the meaning behind key Tarot cards. As he moves through his narrative, a corps of movement performers execute a series of choreographed segments realizing icons from the deck: Sun, Swords, Lovers, Tower, Death, Hanged Man, Chariot, and Stars. Each segment utilizes a different apparatus: Sun on the sling, Swords on the poles, Tower on the silks, Hanged Man on the rope, Chariot on the lyra, the Stars on the lyra and the lollipop lyra.
All of this is performed with such skill and grace as to look all too easy, the effort and long hours of practice rarely show. At times it feels a little daring, even dangerous. The poles are mounted in a base, not attached at both ends as we might expect, and Amberly M. Simpson and Rikki Little seem perilously close to falling over throughout the routine. And when Meg Wallace works her way up the silks, we hardly notice the way she anchors her foot in the folds of cloth, so that her precipitous fall nearly makes us gasp. There is no uncertainty as to the quality of the work from all of the women aerialists, who also include Anne Miller and Ruby Le Strange.
The narrative elements are primarily a close exchange between A.E. Waite (Sterling Pratt), The Fool (Zach Schoner), and The Priestess (Victoria Baumgarten). The text is a near monologue by Waite explaining the meaning of each tarot character, and it at times felt a little academic. The inclusion of the Priestess’s challenge to Waite’s theme, and Zach Schoner’s ferocious dance performance as The Fool go a long way to giving the text weight. Keel also builds crucial interactions of flirtation and seduction between Pratt and the movement performers and removes any awkwardness from points of transition that require changes in rigging and apparatus. Ruby LeStrange was especially good at making a functional scene change into a wordless, yet still meaningful, character interaction.
The aerialists easily dominate the show, the dramatic structure generously conceding the focus to the startlingly athletic sensuality and seductiveness of their work.
As beautiful and unique to Louisville theatre as A Tale of Love and Tarot is, I don’t believe the nascent company fully realizes its ambition here. But it feels like an important first step, taken with deliberate care, and with a confident sense of where the journey might take us.
A Tale of Love and Tarot
November 11 & 12 @ 7:30 p.m.
Suspend Performing Arts
721 East Washington Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.