Friday, June 16, 2017

Here Lies Love

A while back, I was listening to an episode of WTF featuring David Byrne.  In the episode, Byrne said that he'd taken an interest in Color Guard.  You know, twirling with rifles and flags.  This interest resulted in the documentary Contemporary Color, as well as my personal realization that wherever David Byrne leads, I will follow.  I don't care about Color Guard, but if David Byrne cares about Color Guard, I will watch him care about Color Guard until I may or may not also care, and I will enjoy it the whole time and probably care in the end.

That said, until recently I knew nothing of Imelda Marcos or the Filipino People Power Revolution, but when I was asked if I wanted to see a musical about them that was written by David Byrne (and Fatboy Slim), I was all in.  When I was told that it was an interactive disco musical, I was more than all in.  And going more than all in is a serious matter.  A lot of forms to fill out and collateral at stake.  Sure, my all credit is pretty good, but still, they don't make it easy.  That's just the world we live in, though.  It takes all to make all, and those who control the all don't much want to share.

Everybody dance now.  Everybody dance NOW! (Courtesy of

I was glad I took out that all loan out because the show was far more than I expected and even all the all I had in savings (and retirement) wouldn't cover what I needed.  First off, the Seattle Repertory Theatre is no longer a theater, it's a night club.  Club Millennium.  When you walk in, club staff uses wands to direct you around the dance floor.  There's a stage at the front and back, and seating along the sides and above the rear stage.  In the middle is another raised stage, but this one moves.  Once everyone fills in, the DJ welcomes you to the club and they walk you through some stage direction, specifically how to avoid getting run over by the fully mobile, rotating stage in the middle of the dance floor (just rotate with it and you'll be fine).  They also let you know that performers will be working their way through the crowd at times, so to be mindful of guiding hands. And then the lights go down.

When the lights come back up, the next hour and a half is dancing and music and storytelling and rotating and clapping and cheering.  It starts with a traditional musical solo, Imelda singing about her childhood hopes and dreams, and then jumps straight into a non-stop disco.  Here Lies Love tells a story of loving and losing and loving and losing, of selfish desires and selfless sacrifice, of the excess of 1970's American party culture and scarcity of 1970's Filipino poverty culture.  And the whole time, fortune and folly dance along with the ensemble.  Heroes and villains exchange roles, storylines abruptly change direction, and the emotions of the party goers are pulled in all directions.  The only constant is music.

After the last notes are sung, the club closes.  Millennium staff leads you off of the stage you may be standing on and back out of the theater.  And once the dancing stops, the processing begins.  You just saw, heard, and felt a lot, and it's going to take a little time to sort out your feelings.  On one hand, you just left an awesome dance party.  On the other hand, you just watched someone party while their country fell apart around them.  Above all, you were the subject of an emotional bait and switch, and you aren't quite sure how you feel about it.  It's lucky the line's long for coat check.

Byrne does an amazing job of splaying contrast across the stage and mind, recounting a tale heavy with morality through the typically mindless release of a disco.  I can't help but assume the price of admission to see a story of people rising up was the final bit of irony.

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