Monday, April 14, 2014

'Once On This Island' at Olney





Aisha Jackson as Ti Moune (foreground), Theresa Cunningham as Asaka (Mother of the Earth), Nicholas Ward as Agwe (God of Water), Fahnlohnee Harris-Tate as Erzulie (Goddess of Love), and James T. Lane as Papa Ge (Demon of Death). Photo: Stan Barouh
A booming storm yet again rocks this vulnerable Caribbean island, which happens to be Haiti, “The Jewel of the Antilles.”  And in a matter of 90 minutes—the length of a typical wind-swept, drenching and damaging tempest —theatre patrons attending the musical Once On This Island playing at the Olney Theatre Center will be told how a peasant girl can pull strangers on the island together through the power of love. This is accomplished largely through storytelling, an intrinsic part of the peasant culture on Haiti, which serves to entertain as well as to instill values in children. 
Artistic Director Jason Loewith along with veteran theatre director Alan Muraoka, who is  known for his TV work for Sesame Street and making his Olney debut, assembled a talented cast and creative team to deliver a tightly-staged, colorful spectacle in which the story showcases the best of humanity but at times presents a dark reality. He uses a Red Cross shelter following the storm as the setting in the present to symbolically remind the audience of the effects of such disasters on the population, which have been all too common in Haiti. 
#hocoarts
These efforts come into play in Once On This Island as the high-voltage performers are clothed in vivid and at times, rather unconventional Caribbean garb while a stunning set provides an attractive and functional backdrop.  Add to that the splashy bright pastel lighting and excellent sound design and you have a first-rate production through and through.
For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

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