A contempoary opera with the themes and music of 14th century Miracle and Morality plays.
The Woman In The Wall is Overtone Industries' astounding new and original operatic work. In the style of 14th century Miracle plays, but created in this 21st Century, Composer O-Lan Jones and librettist Kathleen Cramer, with music direction by David O, successfully maintain the original purpose of this genre. Using the performance style and the authentic instrumentation of the period, which in itself in no small feat, The Woman in the Wall is a complete piece of art in its world premiere performance. It was presented at the Masonic Lodge in Culver City where its architecturally temple-like atmosphere contributed to the authenticity. Extravagant in simplicity and uniqueness, it is a breath of fresh air for the theatre. And, a wonderful experience.
In a theatre world consisting of "revivals" and restagings, it is so gratifying to see something new and innovative while being true and respectful of theatre history. Inspired by this 14th Century tradition of reinforcing the teachings of the Church, The Woman in the Wall follows the life of an Anchoress who is one who chooses to leave the secular life for that of contemplation. We spend seven days with our Anchoress, Mariana, as she lives her singular life. During seven days, which actually cover seventeen years, we join Mariana (Gretchen Johnson), as she becomes the inspirational advisor to everyone from the peasants to the king. Although the Seven Deadly Sins are omnipresent as usual, we follow her journey inward through her temptations, doubts, revelations, and fears, and how she transforms the people’s questions in relation to the Seven Virtues that light her way.
O-Lan Jones' original score for The Woman in the Wall successfully provides the opera with glorious music. Whether it's the openness and honesty of purpose of those who come to Mariana on their quest in seeking anwers to Life's mysteries, or her responses that musically soar with her concern and involvement, the moments are genuine in their presentation. The music is performed on instruments of the period such as viola de gambas, recorders, percussion and horns. With nine musicians, a rich sound is achieved that enhances the music rather than overwhelms it. This is also true of the cast of the 30-member chorus from the Angel City Chorale, led by Sue Fink. They are not only the chorus, but also an integral part of the action without being intrusive since this is basically a performance in the round.
Being held in the slightly mysterious Masonic Lodge, there was an element that probably hadn't been anticipated - that of towering shadows being cast on the back wall imitating the actions as they were being performed. Because there are permanent wall sconces reflecting upwards, and inadvertently towards Heaven, there was a ritualistic atmosphere without bludgeoning the audience with liturgical underscoring.
Although The Woman in the Wall only ran for two weekends, it has to be presented again - sometime and somewhere. It is a dramatic form that maybe unfamiliar to most audiences, but may be our Anchoress' journey to enlightenment and inner peace is something that is timeless to all, even though it might be presented in a different medium, the message is always the same - "seek and ye shall find."