Thursday, July 4, 2013

Here Lies Love

I went to see Here Lies Love, the new musical by David Byrne, about Imelda Marcos' rise to (and descent from) power.  Set in a gorgeous dance club environment, in which the audience dances, jumps, and gets moved around as the set gets moved around, the show makes us the literal throngs—the Filipino people—which makes it hard for us to resist the charismatic pull of the Marcoses during their ascent. There is much to say about this show (if you live nearby and can get a ticket, just go) but importantly, the cast is spectacular, the set design is genius, and the direction, well the direction WORKS. Things are happening all over the club at once, and yet with a projection here, a beam of light there, a firm gaze or a strong sound cue in the right direction, we always know where to look, and we never miss a thing. This is thrilling theater, and not just for its mechanics, but for its topic. For 90 minutes we are IN the Philippines. Sure, it's a stylized Philippines, and sure it's shown through a theatrical lens, but when's the last time you went to the theater and were IN the Philippines? Singing and dancing about this historical timeline? Or for that matter, singing and dancing about any military dictatorship? It was, to re-use a word, thrilling. I could not stop smiling, except when my heart was breaking.

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