Monday, October 20, 2014

Death breathes new life into 'Phantasmagoria V'

ORLANDO, Fla. — Phantasmagoria started as a slightly macabre and mysterious theater project in Orlando five years ago, and has continuously evolved over the years into something much greater.
The fifth installment of this annual production entitled “Phantasmagoria V: Death Comes for All,” packs an engrossing encapsulation of year’s past, and opens a new book to a bigger and brighter future.
“Its come to fruition. Its evolved so much over the years, and year one I never imagined this at all,” said John DiDonna, Phantasmagoria’s creator, writer and director.
This production was originally based on the concept of a traveling troupe of storytellers who brought mischievousness and a unique style to a play designed to fit in around Halloween and be part of the Orlando Puppet Festival. The characters have developed over time and new elements have been continually added to give audiences something different to enjoy each year.

Phantasmagoria IV ended on a solemn note last year, and this year’s show starts by picking up the scattered pieces. Throughout the show it becomes a family reunion of sorts as the storytellers and other performers find each other and become stronger as they reunite.

Matthew Carroll, who plays Mathias in this production, has been performing with Phantasmagoria from the beginning.

“Each year we’ve done this, its been a progression of what elements do we add, what can we create,” said Carroll. “This year was the final foundation year for this show.”

One element added this year is providing information to audience members about the back story and who these characters are. Slickly produced video introductions and a performer slideshow illustrates who the characters are and what brought them into existence.They are the spirits of imagination, and the conjures of fantasy who live and breathe in the stories all mankind has told throughout history.
Phantasmagoria’s performers bring to life several stories by telling them in a unique style. They use alternating dialogue, puppetry, dance, visual effects, instruments and a number of other performing techniques to bring life to the stories told around the campfires of history.

Stories in this year’s production includes work by well-known writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, HP Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll. There is also a dark and haunting Norse Folklore tale called “The Midnight Mass of the Dead,” that is brought to life by the focused dedication of the cast and eerie lighting effects designed to create the aura of a haunted church in the dead of winter. Classic American literature, poetic diatribes, clever musings, and much more make up the stories shared by these performers.

Another standout story from this year’s show is a twisted tale from Hindu Folklore called “The Tale of the Churel.” A woman is betrayed by her family during a moment of celebration and comes back as the spirit of death to seek her vengeance. This tale features music and movements inspired from Hindu culture and is followed by the “Dance of Kali” which creates an engrossing visual feast that defines what the Phantasmagoria experience is all about.

Of everything this show has to offer; the most visually inspiring and touching moments come midway, with an feat of aerial mastery by Mila Makarova and her daughter Gina Makarova.

“I’ve been performing with Gina since she was eight years old, and her first experience with performing she proved to me that she was totally trustworthy onstage,” said Mila Makarova, Phantasmagoria’s lead choreographer, when asked about performing with her daughter. “I’d rather be onstage with my daughter than anyone else I can think of.”

What this mother and daughter tour de force does onstage is nothing short of amazing. They are both expert performers of aerial acrobatics, which include the use of silks and an aerial hoop, also known as a lyra. For the first time, these two perform together in a single lyra and create a stunningly beautiful visual display of talent that left theatergoers a gasp.

Phantasmagoria V blends literature, dance, puppetry and poetry into a wonderful post-modern theatrical tapestry. Next year’s show is already being written and bigger things are on the horizon.

There are five performances left to see “Phantasmagoria V: Death Comes for All” at the The Mandell Theatre, in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Shows are performed at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, 25, 26, 27 and 31, and more information can be found at the group’s website or Facebook page

By James Tutten

(Above photo provided by Michael Gavin /  The Paranormal Papparazi)

(All other photos by Kristen Wheeler / KHphotographics

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More