There is a new theater ensemble in town, and their first show is something to not be missed.
Søren Olsen, formerly of 600 Whale, and Dolo McComb, formerly of the dance trio //CATHEDRAL\\, have teamed up to create the Lesser Lamps, which is, in their words, a “far-out dance theatre hybrid.” Combine their interests in sci fi, the occult, metaphysics, and fantasy along with their graphic novel obsessions and spiritual practices, and you get, as they describe it, the “bizarro Frankenstein-like space escapade” that is Chromera’s Peek.
The show follows two scientists on a deep-space alien research mission who summon magical crystal power on the search to uncover the underlying mysteries of human reanimation. Accidents unfold, a machine takes over, and the scientists are torn between their honor and their desire for power. Chromera’s Peek offers not only a curiously peculiar sci-fi experimentation in story but also a significant amount of mental and sensory stimulation and a dash of magical illusions and wrestling. Olsen and McComb are passionate in their roles, telling the story without speaking a word.
As soon as we sat down in front of the stage—containing what appeared to be a spaceship control panel, possibly a chair in the center of the stage with a small basket above it, and another podium style object—I attempted to visualize what part these items would play in the show to come. The large light screen, with a shape like a creeping ink blot in the middle, provided the background for a handful of large gems sitting on small plates hanging from the ceiling. But it was the random picture frame hanging toward the front of the stage that really got me thinking. I respect and enjoy a show that is able to tell me a story with minimal props and transitions, and I often attempt to determine what will take place on the stage from the items that are presented prior to show start. Were the gems the star of the show? Did they provide time travel or harvest light? Would a face appear in the picture frame? You will have to see the show and find out for yourself. (To quote one of my favorite characters, Professor River Song: “Spoilers!”) What I will say is that the story is exactly how it was described.
Bizarre. At times I found myself whispering “What the fuck?” under my breath. Then a short time later, it was answered by “Oh, that makes sense,” only to be followed again by another “What the fuck?” But that is why we love sci fi.
Frankenstein-like. Scientific character transformations were fluid and made sense, often resulting in an interpretive dance sequence. Although speaking was minimal and left to an unseen character, Olsen and McComb did a great job communicating with each other in a sometimes comical, sometimes dramatic fashion. I particularly enjoyed the chemistry between their characters as two individuals who have known and worked together for a long time.
Space escapade. If you take the dictionary meaning, an act of escaping or fleeing from confinement or restraint, you absolutely have an escapade in Chromera’s Peek with an interesting twist at the end. No story is complete without an antagonist.
On the technical side of the show, audiovisual effects were spot on. With maybe one or two split-second exceptions, each time the actors appeared to touch a button or stomp on the floor, the sound and lights were timed perfectly. Flashing lights, fog, and music add to the intensity and entertainment.
There was nothing I did not enjoy about Chromera’s Peek. Personally, the biggest takeaway was discovering that a 14-year-old and a 40-year-old interpret things in very different ways: my son, who also enjoyed the show, made very valid points based on what he understood it to be, and it was not even close to the story I saw. This made me love the show even more. Without dialogue between the main characters, you are forced to interpret and imagine what they are communicating to each other based on your own life experiences, which could be very different for everyone.