Between the Worlds
BETWEEN THE WORLDS
at Mixed Blood Theatre
through December 21
Interact Theatre's shows consistently bob and weave through their thematic ocean—the realities of life with a disability—merrily skimming the surface, then out of nowhere pulling in the big catch of a cosmic insight. Between the Worlds is a musical collaboration between Interact's Jeanne Calvit, who directs, and Australia's Tutti Ensemble's Pat Rix, who supplies the tunes (the two collaborate on the lyrics). The show plunges into deep waters from the get-go, with Prophet (J. Otis Powell) laying out the massive scope of history on earth, then Mother of Perfection (Lola Lesheim) and Mother of Imperfection (Tracy Sletten) dividing up primordial humanity into the Norms and the Crips, based on whether they bear any outward disability. It's all done in good fun, but the point is made early: People discriminate, in the sense of putting others into inflexible categories, and few are stamped with greater vehemence than the disabled. Lest matters veer into the didactic, though, the show then focuses on the story of young Isabella (Aimee Crathern), who sees herself as an ugly duckling but hopes her day as a swan is coming (Crathern is sweetness personified, her solo vocal number winning the audience over in a landslide). And it is a Norm, in the form of Oliver (Sam Videen), who falls in love with her and sets off all sorts of friction between their mothers and the staunch adherents of the Norm/Crip divide. It's a nifty trick, to hijack West Side Story with such subversive aplomb, and positively nervy not to deliver a happy ending when the dust settles. In one early number the Crips tell the Norms that they are "one quirk of fate" from being like them, but by the end a far deeper truth emerges: that the differences between us are indeed located on the surface level, and that love and understanding are where it's at. All of which is delivered without sugariness, and with jazzy, upbeat tunes. You'll walk off into the night feeling inordinately optimistic, and more than a little enlightened.
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