A colorful new script and musical score take the stage at the Riverside Theatre this month and clearly exhibit the artistic intelligence of community theater.
"The Magic of Divine Chaos," playing at the Riverside for one more weekend, is comprised of a cast of seven spiritualists who bounce around hectic Berkeley, Calif., like dice on a cosmic card-table. All are seeking love and happiness in their lives but only a few know where to look.
The characters come together in a host of divinely chaotic venues - the Church of Divine Chaos, the Bistro of Divine Chaos, the Boulevard of Divine Chaos - to build their paths to enlightenment by sabotaging each other. But their logic is not evidence of character flaws. The characters, though genuinely concerned with the ultimate goal of happiness, must lend themselves to the bliss that is the chaos of the cosmos.
Katherine Fredricks, an award winning documentary filmmaker, wrote the script and lyrics for the two and a half hours worth of farce and keyboardist/composer Joe McCanna provided the musical arrangements. Both deserve standing ovations for their work. Fredericks' witty lyricism is keen enough to transmit the hysterical "Hollywoodesque" culture of New Age lovers through lines such as, "a little wit, a little zinger, give the moron the finger!," "last night, we had a fight, and then we had great sex," and my favorite from a more sentimental tune, "love's not impatient, love will not wait, it always comes early and never comes late."
According to Fredricks, McCanna had an innate sense of the characters and their motivations. The sentiments expressed by these "dingbats," as Fredricks dubs them in her program notes, cover the spectrum of human emotion and McCanna has given them everything from ballads to balls to sing about them. And if finales are a composer's final exam, "Celebrate" gets extra high marks for its heart, message and the special something it asks of its audience.
Though extremely comical and well-versed, a few details in the actual performance were overlooked that could have made a big difference. Given the limitations of small theaters such as the Riverside, the cast of "Divine Chaos" is without a technical crew, besides Fredricks, who runs the light board and is responsible for the 22 set changes that take place over the two acts. This is not an uncommon practice in community theater, but it must be done right to keep distraction at a minimum. Entrances and exits are essential to a script's movement, and many exits were not fully executed before a character turned around to grab a prop piece. For the audience's sake, please exit!
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And while moving set pieces, actors were sometimes reluctant to remain in character and even spoke to each other like this. That put a strain on some characters' credibility. Finally, the program contained a synopsis, but no song list. C'mon, it's a musical!
With glitches out of the way, it's safe to say that these characters will work their way into your hearts and minds. So raw is their technique that I couldn't help but fall in love with every one of them. It was obvious they were not performing for glory but for the genuine message of the script, something they all apparently believe in - "Celebrate life."
"The Magic of Divine Chaos" can be seen at the Riverside Theater, 112 Washington St. SE, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 with no grace for students or seniors. Call 254-8393 for more information.