The Not Man Apart (NMA) Physical Theatre Ensemble never fails to deliver. Ajax in Iraq, The SuperHero and his Charming Wife, and their other stagings have displayed a wonderful theatricality and have provoked thought and discussion in their audiences.
Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny now playing at the Greenway Court Theatre succeeds in those same areas.
The show, presented in partnership with Greenway Arts Alliance, credits indicate an ensemble at work here, with a healthy confusion of listings mixed in the program. Jones (Welsh) Talmadge is listed as creator-director-producer and lead choreographer, Laura Covelli as co-director and producer, J-Walt Adamczyk as co-creator and interactive visual designer, with Leslie Charles Roy Jr., Alina Bolshakova and Anne-Marie Talmadge all given nods as co-choreographers.
Fortunately, this tumult has found a unity on stage.
The production takes its inspiration from Paradise Lost; the epic poem by John Milton, the first version, of which was published in 1667. Rebellion is at the core of the work, Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s commands and Satan’s failed Revolt against the Almighty.
Milton knew of the cost and hope rebellion entails. Born the son of a composer in 1608, Milton would become both a successful poet and a political propagandist whose scathing pamphlets would figure in both the Bishops’ Wars (1639-1640) and the English Civil War (1642-1651) where his pen turned against what he saw as corruption in both the Anglican Church and the rule of King Charles I.
By the victory of the “roundheads” and the execution of Charles, Milton had already gone completely blind, and so Paradise Lost—considered the greatest epic poem in the English Language—was composed by means of an amanuensis, or secretary, to whom Milton dictated.
As expressed in Book One, of the twelve book poem, Milton’s purpose in writing it was to “justify the ways of God to men.” While quite possible, it was also the blind and sickly Milton’s effort to justify the ways of God to himself.
But you will find none of Milton’s ringing verse on stage at the Greenway, for unlike past productions, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny is, in its entirety, a dance composition. Whatever the reason for this variation in their approach, the result is still up to the high standard the Not Man Apart Ensemble has set for themselves.
While Milton’s poem opens after the fall of Lucifer and his army of rebellious angels, Talmadge starts at the beginning of the creation myth; presented with dazzling effects by the third listed co-creator of the show, J-Walt Adamczyk. A filmmaker, virtual reality and graphic artist, Academy Award winner Adamczyk has devised a stunning visual environment that encases the show, and so it is completely understandable that we find him in the role of God as well.
Jones (Welsh) Talmadge is engaging and powerful as Satan who brings Sin (Laura Covelli) and Death (James Bane) into the world. Leslie Charles Roy Jr. conveys the wide-eyed wonder of Adam, while Alina Bolshakova is as entrancing to watch in this staging as Eve as she was in the Crown Theatre’s production of Nosferatu: Symphony In Terror.
Milton’s poem takes a “subordinationist” view towards the “Son of God,” a doctrine that would be the cause of much bloodletting in the Christian world; which sees the Son as separate and secondary to God, with Milton’s God’s describing him as “My word, my wisdom, and effectual might.”
Zachary Reeve Davidson (who’s also credited in the program as Producer/NMA Media Director) has some moving moments as Son of God, as does Elisa Rosin (credited in the program as Composer) in the role of Gabriel.
Falling back on the mythology of Abraham, wherein the angels have no gender, the casting of NMA’s production would probably not result in much censure from Milton, however, the introduction of Marguerite French in the role of “Mother God,” (despite her excellent work and its political correctness) would have had the old boy, wildly, swinging his cane in hopes of hitting any target.
Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny is as moving and satisfying an evening at the theatre as one could hope to experience. Having said that, I feel it is required to mention those talents not found performing: Niki Armato – Technical Director/Sound Designer, John E.D. Bass – Lighting Designer, Ashphord Jacoway – Costume Designer, Alysia Michelle James and Bernie Sirelson – Composers, Hannah Beavers – Video Installation Artist, and my personal favorite – Pamela Donohoo – Aerial Consultant.
At the center of Milton’s work is the concept of “The Fortunate Fall”; the philosophy that all that resulted from the fall of man – the redemption and salvation achieved through Christ – is a greater blessing than would have been his had man remained in a state of innocence within the garden.
In Book Twelve of Milton’s poem – before Michael expels them from the garden – Adam is shown the future that his sin will bring about as well as the coming of mankind’s “savior.”
Here again, the NMA production seems to diverge from their source material. In the final vision shown on the stage of Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, one finds little hope presented; what there is, is the image of Adam and Eve facing the future together. Perhaps this is NMA’s idea of Paradise Regained.
What is not disputable at the end of the evening however, is that The Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble is one of the more exciting companies gracing the stages of L.A. and one whose efforts should not be missed.
(** in Featured Image: Charles Roy (Adam) and Alina Bolshakova (Eve) – Photo by Anthony Roldan**)
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Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny
A Dance Theatre Epic, Adapted from John Milton
Written and Directed by Jones (Welsh) Talmadge
Co-Presented by the Greenway Arts Alliance
Playing now thru – April 2nd, 2017
Friday and Saturday 8pm / Sunday 7pm
Greenway Court Theatre
544 North Fairfax Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90036;
for tickets and more information:
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