Richardson — After the Curtain had the drama of an opera and the bravado of a Cirque du Soleil performance. For two hours young girls and their mothers were transfixed by the story of Vincent, a silent film director who frantically scrambles to write down his story and final words.
Two sets of wooden stairs and a platform are swiveled and pushed by dancers dressed in clothing from the Roaring ’20s. They busy themselves running up and down the moving set, flicking on marquee lights, & wishing each other good luck before their show.
Vincent, played by Travis Wall, sits in front of his makeup mirror hunched over and punching keys on a typewriter. On a screen hovering above the set the audience reads every word Vincent types. An ominous sentence appears, “this may be my last chance to tell the truth about what happened.” Like in an opera, the protagonist’s death is inevitable. Immediately the focus shifts away from Vincent’s haunting words as he types an introduction of the cast members and their role in his life. A pool of blue light washes over the featured dancer Vincent is describing as he or she calmly primps and preps. Following the introduction, chaos ensues.
It was difficult to follow the storyline of each character in the opening number due to their similar costuming and brief introduction. The dancers paired off and were caught in a tango of conflict and angst, but their motivation was unclear. The narrative didn’t unfold until Vincent’s nosey twin brother, Leo, finds the director’s diary and events from the intimate writings play out.
While the characters performed their show the platform rotated around to reveal a much more enthralling drama backstage, the unfiltered lives of the characters. A jealous understudy, an affair, a betrayal, a catfight, an investigation all told through unexpected partnering, beautiful lifts, and grounded quick movements. The retelling of the events led to the director tragically taking his own life.
Vincent has an affair with a cast mate named Sebastian and struggles to come to terms with what Sebastian means to him, accepting his sexuality, and being truthful with his current girlfriend Ellenore. Sebastian packs up to leave believing that his feelings are unrequited. On his way to the train, Sebastian mistakes another cast mate, Luther, for Vincent and excitedly rushes over to him. Angered by the advancement, Luther ends up stabbing Sebastian.
Heartbroken by the murder, Vincent battles to keep his sanity but the voice inside his head is personified into a sadistic, visceral being that crawls out of Vincent’s makeup mirror and attempts to dominate him. In the end, the voice wins and Vincent takes his own life.
Although the content of After the Curtain was dark, the issues were tastefully and abstractly addressed. Wall’s use of lighting, set, props, and music broke up the narrative to help the audience differentiate between past and present events, reality versus imaginary.
Wall’s prowess in storytelling through dance is sharp. The great lengths he and the cast of Shaping Sound underwent to create illusions of Vincent’s mental state were breathtaking.
The demon inside the director’s head, masterfully executed by Lex Ishimoto, would momentarily mimic his movements in the mirror then break character. He moved in on Vincent like an animal and pulsed to the electronic music that played. Later on when Vincent revisited that same mirror, the marquee lights surrounding the mirror scattered and reformed in different parts of the stage. Glimpse of Sebastian could be seen, but every time Vincent would try to step into the mirror to be with his lover the lights would scatter again. The same mesmerizing effect took place when Vincent couldn’t bear to put into words how Sebastian was murdered and threw his transcript in the air. Again inanimate objects took life and the dancers dressed in all black would make the pages swirl, tumble, and carry the distraught director.
After the Curtain was overwhelmingly beautiful. Seeing the show once isn’t enough to fully register the vastness of the production.