Photo: Jon Cherry
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
I missed the first couple of Baby Horse Theatre Group shows when they first arrived on the scene, but when I saw their adaptation of John Ford’s Tis Pity She’s A Whore at the Slant Culture Festival six years ago, it stood apart from anything else seen on a Louisville stage, a dark and visceral experience built upon ritual and sacrifice.
Their new show is a return to the concept of ritual, in fact, it is all ritual called sepultre. Searching online provided no definition of that word and I suspect that the group created it for this show. The description on social media reads:
Sepultre is a ritual from the near future, conducted by beings from another world.It is an esoteric ceremony reflecting on the rise and fall of the human race. But more importantly, it is an acknowledgment of the inevitability of the universal void and the importance of embracing the peace and safety of Death.
The 20-minute piece has a balance of formalized movement and language as four human figures enact a benediction for a world that has undergone some type of cataclysm. I hesitate to adopt the cliche of post-apocalyptic landscape, but following the upfront science fiction genre of the previous Baby Horse show, Jessica and Her Son and the ragged, hollow-eyed look of the characters we see here, who have lamps hanging against their chests to light their faces with a ghostly green light, it may be apt
Those lights may be suggestive of the importance of electricity in this scripture, a motif emphasized by the use of outlet cover plates in the altar dressing methodically placed by the four. A sacrament is also shared with the audience that recognizes a Protestant foundation for the ceremony.
What are the cultural remnants that will survive after civilization has been destroyed? Primitive humans developed religion to explain the unexplainable and centuries of mythology developed, each one picking up threads from what had gone before. Sepultre imagines the disparate iconography that might result from a lost electronic age, one which may or may not venerate digital imagery but will undoubtedly be influenced by it. These may be beings from another world, but this company has never been sloppy with its language, so another world may not necessarily mean another planet. If humanity were forced to rebuild from the ashes.
Conventional discussions of performance are useless here. The quartet of actors work together in uncommon unity, moving and speaking with gravitas short of pretension and the look and mood of the piece is singular and effective. Sepultre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I suppose anyone not willing to risk 20 minutes of their life for something fresh and thought-provoking isn’t likely to pay attention to a fringe festival anyway.
Featuring Jon Becraft, Amy Davis, Jacqueline Heinzen, & Gracie Taylor
Part of the 2nd Louisville Fringe Festival
November 7 @ 9:15 PM
November 13 @ 9:00 PM
November 15 @ 9:15 PM
Baby Horse Theatre Group
Acting Against Cancer
323 W. Broadway, Third Floor.
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio 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 LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.