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The Haunting Spectacle of Untitled Theatre Company #61’s Velvet Oratorio

Sweeping. Poignant. Elegiac.

 

Ferdinand (Matthew Trumbull) and the policeman (Ross Degraw) (Arthur Cornelius)

Ferdinand (Matthew Trumbull) and the belligerent policeman (Ross Degraw) (Arthur Cornelius)

The range of emotions the audience ricochets through over the course of The Velvet Oratorio, a historical re-telling of the Velvet Revolution which occurred in former Czechoslovakia in late 1989-early 1990, is purely breathtaking. Riveting on a human scale, elegiac without ambling into caricature, The Velvet Oratorio brings the very relevant issue of en masse protest against perceived institutional government failure to bear in a heartstring-rending way. A dance through the spectacle of human folly, every step of the way the range of emotions translates well without being overwhelming.

 

Terence Stone leads the chorus in The Velvet Oratorio (Arthur Cornelius)

Terence Stone leads the chorus in The Velvet Oratorio (Arthur Cornelius)

The tale unfolds, combining text, dialogue and musical scores whisking the audience through a dramatic re-telling of the groundbreaking series of events leading to the overthrow of Czechoslovakia’s Communist government. The chorus echoes the experience of everyday folks on the street while a series of vignettes captures the adventures of main character Ferdinand, an educated gentleman who happens to be secretly working with the rising political movement to overthrow the Communist party. Scenes recount the range of his encounters with students, friends, and authority figures in the changing climate of the Velvet Revolution during the end of 1989 in Czechoslovakia.

Student-led protests incited the eventual resignations of the entire top leadership of the Communist party by the end of November 27, and the unraveling of the status quo is faithfully reflected through scenes of hauntingly dissonant choral arrangements, blocks of found text, subtly recalcitrant personal accounts from the files of Shirley Temple Black, and the realistic fictional account of Vaclav Havel’s rise through Ferdinand’s eyes.

 

Culminating in a divided society with a new playwright president leading a nation voting for the first time in nearly 50 years, The Velvet Oratorio’s real triumph is the subtle confrontation of expectations: there is no happily-ever-after ending; if anything, the loose ends are more frayed than compounded. However, that this production can reflect the messiness of a society undergoing traumatic historic events is a testament to the scope and comprehension Einhorn and Untitle Theatre Company #61 have achieved with this delicate tribute to an era gone by. More details on upcoming productions can be found at http://www.untitledtheater.com, with performances slates for Friday, Dec 12, Saturday, Dec 13, Tuesday Jan 13 and Wednesday, Jan 14. Tickets for upcoming shows can be purchased here:https://m.ovationtix.com/pr/940138

 

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