IN THE ROCK MUSICALS MOST MYSTICAL MOMENTS YOU WILL FEEL A LITTLE WEIGHTLESS YOURSELF
The Strand stage on Market street is now in Rock Opera mode to tell a Roman poem from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Kilbanes are back with their part play part dream Rock Opera WEIGHTLESS that first premiered at Z Space. Now on stage at the Strand Stage only through May 12th. ACT’s Associate Art Director Andy Chan Donald says ACT’s relationship with Z Space for commissioning new works is a perfect match; ”we are thrilled to welcome them home after their smash run in New York at The Public Theatre.” Piece by Piece productions Wendy vanden Heuvel and Z Space’s Lisa Steindler says “Following sold-out shows in 2018 and The Public Theatre in early 2019, we are thrilled to be partnering with A.C.T. in bringing Weightless back to the Bay Area - Weightless is a perfect example of our commitment to the ongoing process of developing new work”.
Songwriters husband-and-wife duo Kate Kilbanes and Dan Moses myth-filled work includes the story of two sisters, Procne and Philomela. WEIGHTLESS chronicles their separation, and their grief at the hands of a malevolent god and efforts to reunite. It’s not the first venture into ancient mythology for Kilbane and Moses, who is also the sound engineer and designer.
The Oakland rock band songwriting team are also in the show, and in the band along with Dan Harris on drums all part of the story. The two are triple threats that have created a theatrical experience that rivals any of the classic Rock Operas from Tommy to The Wall. The Kilbanes’ WEIGHTLESS includes performers Dan Moses on keyboards, Kate Kilbane on bass and vocals as Procne and Lila Blue as Philomela. Local favorite Julia Brothers plays an awesome God who narrates the fable. Directed by Becca Wolff she brings the three women down stage to perform most of the songs that open with the pounding “Hollow Done” and “Awake” that are highlighted by Gregory T. Kuhn’s sound design. Choreographer Sara Bush adds some simple movement for the small company and it gives great class to Brothers and Blue in the song “Morning on The Water.”
*Peter Lawrence Kane from the SF weekly interviewed the duo in April before the production opened and Kane says because both Kilbane and Moses have music backgrounds, they chose to stage Weightless as a rock opera and not a standard musical; “They wanted their peers to know that it was for them.” Kilbane says “We did begin as a touring rock band, even though we’re highly theatrical and weird,” “We feel like Tommy is more our legacy than like Mamma Mia!” Kilbane gives the female protagonists greater agency and Moses says “We’re sort of interested in finding the borderlands between what is a concert and what is a piece of theater, and really carving out a space and really figuring out how we can retain the way a concert feels, the theatricality of that.”
The scenic design by Angrette McCloskey is simple for this Strand Stage production, but the breathtaking projections by Hana Kim are stunning. The ACT production includes some modifications; this is first time the Opera is presented on a proscenium stage. In the past a black box at Z Space and later at various festivals kept the design open and the actors would venture into the audience. The projections and lighting by Ray Oppenheimer transported Strand Theatre into another world. The costumes by Christine Crook are elegant for Brothers’ shining god robes and jackets. Crook keeps the other women in simple layered earth tones and the men in darker tone clothes.
The score fuses the energy of a rock concert with theater. The sisters Procne and Philomela who are close as they sing “Breath and Your Bones” that sets their true bond. Their father wants to marry Procne off to a man not worthy and who is more so an idiot and rapist. The sisters escape and find their own paradise. But no refuge can last, and a man, Tereus, played by the infectious Josh Pollock comes between them and terrible things do happen. Well not as bad as in the original tale that includes cannibalism, but a women's “Me Too” subtext remains and rape is still in the fable. The man pounds his power to silence women. The women summon their inner power and fight back. God comes to the rescue and gives us an ending that allows conflict, violence, pain to create beauty. The importance of the music, and in the song “Weaving” and the banner tune “Weightless” makes this sharp 75-minute one act musical explosive and beautiful.
The impressive young Lila Blue brings her dazzling voice to Philomela, and her songs with Kilbane are haunting, with raw emotion. Directed in a full throttle rock mode by Becca Wolff kept this absorbing, engaging and easy to get lost in the music and story. Kilbane's passion is compelling in her vocal performance and the powerful bass lines she plays on her strings. Brothers keeps this event on point with her dry wit “I have seen this all” swagger take on God’s view of mankind. Kilbane wrote the God narrative with Patti Smith in mind, and some have written that it reminded them of David Bowie performance in Ziggy Stardust.
The Greeks and Romans learned from their gods, WEIGHTLESS looks at a gods learning from humans. In the Opera’s most mystical moments, you will feel a little weightless yourself. Next up at the Geary ACT stage is RHINOCEROS directed by Tony Award winner Frank Galati, opens May 29th. The lovely VANITY FAIR continues on the Geary street stage through May 12. But in the meantime don’t miss this game changer by the brilliant local Bay Area superstars the Kilbanes.
AMERICAN CONSERVATORY THEATER,
Z SPACE AND PIECE BY PIECE PRODUCTIONS
THE ACCLAIMED ROCK OPERA BY THE KILBANES
Book and Music by Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses
Directed by Becca Wolff
With Lila Blue, Julia Brothers, Dan Harris, Josh Pollock
and The Kilbane’s
Must Close MAY 12, 2019
A.C.T.’S STRAND THEATER
1127 Market St., San Francisco
Running time 75 min no intermission
Tickets at www.act-sf.org