by Ed Malin · January 12, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #30 Ed Malin looks at I am an Opera playing at Incubator Arts Joseph Keckler has a way of going into a fairly barren performance space and infusing it with his enormous voice. In this show, I Am An Opera, which premiered at Dixon Place in 2013 and is now offered at Incubator Arts, the opera he makes is pleasantly psychedelic and makes normal things quite amazing. (Note the lighting design credited to Sarah Murphy, Uwe Mengel, and Joseph Keckler which enhances the journey.) Out of the blue, Keckler is operatically relating the tale of the 2007 Shroom Trip. It has the booming bass voice, the desolation and abandonment and hallucination found in operas you might see in the repertory. Granted, this is without the imposing sets and costumes, a sense of where the action is headed, life-and-death stakes, and, until the end, any other people live on stage. What Keckler provides is an engrossing performance, a whole environment created by his voice, in a variety of languages. I personally have not eaten too many delicious drug-laced cookies at an underground party and then, abandoned by my friends, spent the night in various dimensions. Even so, the hauntingly dissonant violin music of Dan Bartfield and Patrick Grant plus Keckler's laughter are quite transporting. A silent film projection, exotic mask work (courtesy of Andrew Jordan), a conversation with a painting, and a visit from a bare-chested Minotaur (Alex Gulla) take the story even further. Director Uwe Mengel has worked with Keckler several times before, and it shows in the inescapable dream experience they have created. I am looking forward to seeing their next musical storytelling effort.