On Being Too Big to Fail
A piece in 8 bits

[The following review is scheduled to run in the Denver Post.]

Using the metaphors of retro 8-bit video game technology and the classic Greek myth of Icarus, the fearless minds at The Lida Project attempt to explain the root causes of the economic collapse of 2008 and its lingering effects.

Kenny Storms as the Bull
Kenny Storms as the Bull
Photo: Jeremy Make
If you're confused by the spin given to economic events by pundits and politicians, this tale may offer some insights. After all, if we've learned anything from Marshal McLuhan, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell, it's that technology and dreams and myth provide clues to our behavior and our salvation.

As original chiptune compositions fill the air, choices from an electronic menu determine which scenarios the actors perform in-the-round, upon a digital labyrinth painted on the floor, against a backdrop of monitors, screens, and consoles (displaying the Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, World Series Baseball, et al).

In the opening scene, Pasiphaë (the daughter of Helios and the wife of King Minos of Crete) takes pleasure in a union with Poseidon in the guise of a bull, a crude but effective representation of how the bulls of Wall Street have helped themselves to others' assets.

Kelleen Shadow as the Princess
Kelleen Shadow as the Princess
Photo: Eric Mayer
Next, some feathers float down from the sky and a group of businesspersons march onto the game board and organize themselves around a monolithic step ladder, engaging in various choreographed office rituals involving paper and briefcases, with some hard-nosed scrimmaging to underscore the competitive nature of the workplace.

In the third scene of the opening sequence, Daedalus uses a joystick to manipulate his son, Icarus, onto the game board and up a couple steps on the ladder, in response to the boss, Mr. Knossos, who presides over the labyrinthine corporate protocols that measure success.

Terry Burnsed as a businessman>
Terry Burnsed as a businessman
Photo: Eric Mayer
From there, the sequences vary nightly, depending on the menu selections. In this evening's performance, a farmer emerges and seeks meaning in a world where the value of his labor fails to keep pace with the profits from commercial paper traded for short-term gains, while corporate suits spout the usual canard, such as "no one saw this coming."

Gradually, the storylines intersect, with Icarus donning his famous wax-secured wings to ascend the corporate ladder. An ongoing sculpture, perhaps the Golden Calf, takes shape to the side.

In HOT + WAX, as in Brechtian drama, character serves ideas, so, in a sense, we experience tragedy without catharsis, which is exactly what one would expect if, as Mr. Knossos claims, the game is rigged.

And who, but the multimedia wizards of The Lida Project, would so effortlessly update the hypnotic mechanical symbolism of Chaplin's Modern Times or Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine with the rudimentary key scales and color palette of old time electronic games and use this platform to lay bare the money game?

The Lida Project's production of HOT + WAX: On Being Too Big To Fail (A Piece in 8 Bits) runs through October 23rd. 720.221.3821 or tickets@lida.orgBob Bows


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