At its heart ambitious and earnest, 6Degrees Collaborative’s Gods and Monsters: An Odyssey at The Bug Theatre pulls inspiration from sources as disparate as Homer’s Odyssey, Tori Amos, David Bowie, shadow performance, yoga, Dia de los Muertos and acrobatics. Part re-telling, part tribute, part amalgamation, it took the better part of a year to create. 6Degrees’ third production, Gods and Monsters strives for expansiveness, juxtaposition, profundity.
In certain respects, 6Degrees accomplishes what it set out to do. Dan Kotranza’s guitar playing and drumming are accomplished, nuanced and the backbone of the live music that accompanies much of the performance. Alyssa Torre carries each movement with her character Penelope’s enduring strength and grace. The ingenuity of the stage direction shows at the opening as tea lights in the dark are slowly scooped up, as if by magic, and begin to flit like fireflies across the stage. The impulse to mash up Greek mythology with pop culture creates a host of possibilities.
In other respects, however, the production works against itself. Best-selling Lauren Groff (who combined Greek mythology with contemporary marriage in her latest novel Fates and Furies) once said that where most of her writing students fall shorts not in their creativity, but in their lack of a fixed point of telling. In performance, the point of telling is the production’s vision. That vision should be clear and enable the audience to see through it. Often Gods and Monsters feels like seven different works rather than one cohesive narrative. Choices such as sugar skull masks, Paul Harvey’s “If I were the devil” recording, the use of a melodica, and a hexagon-shaped giant eyeball were quizzical, distracting and even jarring.
6Degrees might be able to solve some of these issues by trusting in its audience’s imagination and leveraging stage direction to its advantage. The jellyfish scene, for example, would have benefitted from lower lighting so that the clear, plastic umbrellas would have become less recognizable and more ethereal and eerie to better mimic jellyfish movements. The human pyramid in the Cyclops scene was mesmerizing for its oddness – four people in full black body suits stacked upon one another and moving forward – but the giant eyeball with its rope-thick veins and angular shape put a cartoonish and, therefore, silly spin on things when the intended effect was one of drama. A simple sphere or even one with the hint of an iris could have conjured enough of an eyeball reference.
Clearly 6Degrees has creativity in spades in addition to a wide-ranging toolbox of skills and knowledge from which to pull. As an emerging organization, it needs to focus next on honing and refining.
Deanne Gertner: A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for Denver-based art consulting firm, NINE dot ARTS, where she helps companies tell their stories through art. She sits on the boards of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s young professionals’ group. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from DailyServing and Quaint Magazine.