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'Imagine' Fumbles in the Dark

Cathi Levy's 'Imagine' photo by Howard Levy

Cathi Levy’s Imagine is an ambitious project. As a theatre-in-black production it separates itself from the entertainment fare usually available on the local landscape. Populated with fabulously crafted puppets and props as well as vibrant, well-designed and well-crafted costumes the show has several eye-catching moments. Unfortunately, where script, direction and performance were concerned the show needed a good shot of imagination and skill.

Imagine is one of those rare feats where the whole is far less than the sum of its parts. The show, a variety concert styled event, is populated by 14 pieces, most of which are performed as full theatre-in-black and a few in combination. There are clowns, mimes and choreosign which Levy helped to popularize locally through Little People and admittedly few have have presented choreosign with the finesse achieved by the Little People. In general, one has to give deserved kudos to the professionalism which went into designing and executing the props and puppets.

Conceptually, the show is good. A glance at the summaries present exciting ideas that well executed should entertain and even awe. The problem is, Imagine is not exciting.

I assume that were I under 8 years-old I may have loved it, because although its not billed as children's theatre it certainly has more to please young tykes than a discerning adult because other than the strong visuals the production is very light on all the other elements that make good theatre.

One has to appreciate that Imagine has many good intentions especially as borne out by the penultimate piece ‘See Me ... Hear Me’ featuring the deaf cast members. The piece draws attention to the deaf community pointing out that they lead valid and normal lives and should be treated as such. It’s therefore very relevant to the society, but not so much to the rest of the production, because it is more an infomercial, albeit a touching one, than it is theatre.
'Believe' from Cathi Levy's Imagine - photo by Howard Levy
And yet, ‘See Me ... Hear Me’ was by no means the weakest piece in the production. That trophy was snatched by the sketch ‘Clown Contest’ which is so riddled with clowning cliches that one is tempted to eat one of those well made vibrant wigs just to make it stop. The pieces in Imagine generally fail because they dramatic arcs, plot movement and have barely discernible climaxes.

Even the more interesting concepts are hampered by poor storytelling, which wasn't able to sufficiently bring the ideas to life. So although ‘Frightmare’ climaxes with some interesting puppetry, the start is hardly passably interesting if you are older than five.

Similarly, ‘Tales and Legends’ contains the character ‘KooKooMacka’ whose design is as worthy of praise as the story in which it falls is worthy of condemnation. ‘Tales and Legends’ riddled with gaping plot holes, because essentially, Levy merely took varied folk creatures and crocheted them together with a flimsy plot, which then ruins what could otherwise have been a great climax.

Use of music also left much to be desired, which particularly counts because several of the pieces depend on the music to do more than set the mood. Indeed, ‘Believe’ and ‘Remembering MJ’ both homages to two great singers are betrayed by the music selection which contradict or grate against the choreography and stories being told.

But of course, the puppets are lovely and I imagine for some, that will be enough.