Mní Wičóni.Water Is Life: “Moving Water”

KERMIT DUNKELBERG, XIMENA CALDERÓN, WILL SWYERS: image from a rehearsal. 

Presented by the Ko Theatre Festival 
a devised theatre production by Serious Play Theatre Ensemble 
written by Eric Henry Sanders
original music by Jonny Rodgers
directed by Sheryl Stoodley 
Cast: Kermit Dunkelberg, Ximena Salmerón, Will Swyers
Video design and technical coordination/operation by Robin W. Doty
Dramaturgy and visual inspiration by Rosalyn Driscoll  
Lighting design by Sabrina Hamilton 

Here is a list of activism resources made available on the Ko Fest website. 

July  30 – August 1, 2021 
Streamed Online via Vimeo
Ko Fest social media: @Kofest

In-person performances: July 22-25
33 Hawley Street
Northampton, MA

In English & Spanish with supertitles. 

Review by Kitty Drexel

Northampton, Mass. —  July 30 – August 1, Moving Water is available to stream as part of the Ko Theatre Festival out of Northampton, MA. It is a devised theatre production with dance, multi-media projection, and original music by the Serious Play Theatre Ensemble. 

Press materials said, “Moving Water îs centered on the global water crisis, and endeavors to bring audiences into a deeper understanding of our human relationship to water.” Here is a list of activism resources and reading list made available on the Ko Fest website. 

The pandemic is raging across humanity just as climate change is raging across the globe. Three apartment dwellers are reconciling their differing views on the climate crisis as they search for a missing tenant and neighbor, Zara. 

Sergei (Kermit Dunkelberg) is the building’s eccentric but ingenious super with plans to save his home from flooding. Zara was his partner in mechanical engineering. Late one night he knocks on Zara’s door only to be met by Luna (Ximena Salmerón), a new tenant. Luna is a Mexican oceanographic student with a violent history who agrees to help Sergei find Zara at a more dignified time of day. 

Drew (Will Swyers) is the building manager. He denies climate change is putting the building at risk. He agrees to help find the two find Zara anyway. 

Moving Water has a lot of promise. It needs some tweaking but is very nearly a show ready to be promoted to other venues for production outside of Northampton. 

The character Zara does not exist in physical form. Zara and another character Celeste represent the human cost of climate change denial and capitalist greed: Zara ran from a family that didn’t understand her; Celeste hid from a government that found her life inconvenient to its purposes. Sergei, Luna and Drew talk about Zara and Celeste but they do not show her to us. It’s too much “telling” for a theatre piece meant “to show.” These characters either need a physical representation or their psychic weight needs to be delegated.

The non-verbal sequences without dance or movement segues need tightening. The opening scene in which Sergei adds cogged wheels to a contraption as he murmurs to himself runs too long. It’s very pretty, the cogs and wheels and oceanic lighting design swirling to create an underwater mechanical sequence out of The Little Mermaid, but it’s not enough to hold our attention without better reason. 

If this moment is important then why is Sergi’s back to us? Why is it so dark around him? It’s okay to break the rules of theatre as long as it is clear to the audience why the rules are broken. We don’t understand why this scene is important until later but understand that its existence is important otherwise we wouldn’t see so much of it.  

Perhaps video viewers miss important elements from the staged version. If that’s the case, please point the camera at the important elements so we get them as clearly as the live audience.  

The movement segments accompanied by the music by Jonny Rodgers are beautiful (especially the dream-like swim sequences/swim-like dream sequences). Near the end of the show, Luna and Sergei dip their hands into an aquarium holding a model of their building underwater. Rodgers’ music twinkles and pings as they do. It transports this harrowing scene of lost characters into a fairy tale. Their lives are entering into a dire emergency. There is no reason emergency can’t also be beautiful.  

Kermit Dunkelberg, Ximena Salmerón, and Will Swyers work well together. In many blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments throughout the recording, we see them play with their characters and each other’s characters. It signals to us that they trust each other and are willing to take risks. That’s highly valuable and greatly appreciated as a fellow artist. 

Moving Water performed live July 22-25 at the @33 Hawley Street33 venue in Northampton, MA. Attendees were masked and socially distanced according to the Ko Fest website. More info can be found at kofest.com

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