Fair is Foul. Foul is Fair*: “Rev. 23: A Hellish, Farcical Opera”

Photo by Kathy Wittman; keep on rockin’ on, kids.

Presented by White Snake Projects
Creator and libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs
Composed by Julian Wachner
Directed by Mark Streshinsky
Conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya
Dramaturgy by Cori Ellison
Choreography by Yury Yanowsky

Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2017
John Hancock Hall
Boston, MA
White Snake Projects on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”
Revelation 21:23Bible, New International Version  (NIV)

(Boston, MA) White Snake Projects is giving the BLO a run for their money. It’s my sincere hope that artists and their audience will watch the works of both companies but, if one has to choose, WSP may be the winner in the competition for attendees. Its edgy productions are worth the commitment.

Rev. 23: A Farcical, Hellish Opera is a compendium of arts references bursting with innuendo and cheeky wit. The premise is simple: Greek Gods bust into Christianity’s Heaven to shake up the boundaries between good and evil. Lead by Lucifer (Michael Meyers), domestic abuser Hades (Vale Rideout), and recovering assault victim Persephone (Colleen Daly) convince Adam (Jonathan) & Eve (Annie Rosen) to blow up the generator causing perpetual Summer. Their goal is to achieve perpetual winter. Gleeful chaos ensues.

This is easily the most yuppie punk show I’ve seen all year. Librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs and director Mark Streshinsky are not messing around with their work. Rev. 23 is an opera firmly rooted in the 21st Century. Lidiya Yankovskaya’s vivacious conducting might as well have been head banging for all her hard work corralling Julian Wachner’s magnificent beast of a score. Add to the mix the tarted up Furies (Nora Graham-Smith, Melanie Long, Jamie-Rose Guarrine) flitting around Hell like deranged pixies at a bacchanal, and you’ve got one wild ride.   

The vocals were amazing. Despite the stage swallowing sound from anyone more than five feet from the lip, the diction was crisp within those five feet. The cast made it obvious with their presentations that they were working very hard to communicate the libretto to us. They were effective enough to win against the supertitles 80% of the time. 

The neglectful fable that opera singers can’t or shouldn’t act must die. Anyone looking for examples against this lie should look to Rev. 23.  

How many Care Bears have to die, Zane? HOW MANY? Photo by Kathy Wittman.

Zane Pihlstrom’s costuming was insane. The occupants of “Hell” were dressed in S&M meets Ed Hardy chic. (Lucifer’s extra flamey codpiece was fascinating.) Pretty much exactly what one would imagine Hell’s catwalk would feature. In contrast, “Heaven” is populated by extremely attractive, mostly naked people in minimal amounts of fig leafery. The nightmarish CCD uninforms looked an awful lot like red prison jumpsuits. It was the stuff of nightmares.

Rev. 23 openly mocks biblical stories. Several people left during the production’s Archangel humiliation scene, and did not come back. Shockingly, the deserters were totally cool with Greek Gods receiving the same treatment.

Opera does not get a pass for casting white people in roles depicted as People of Color. Black, Brown and Yellow face are unacceptable on any stage. It’s not as if classical music is missing the necessary humans for these roles. It’s awesome that POCs were used in typically white roles. Do more. 

In Rev. 23,  the Gods subvert Heaven with artistic materials. Adam and Eve are perverted into awareness by Romeo and Juliet. At a time when the bigots occupying Capitol Hill are defunding everything except their own pockets, we must resist. Take an example from White Snake Projects. Use your art for good… Or, at the very least, to upset whatever the automatons in the White House are shilling.  


Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

TCG has a list of things you can do to help.

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