ComedyDanceFestivalsNew YorkPhysical TheatreReview

One Small Step—New Ohio Theatre, New York

Writer: The Saint Fortune Collective

Choreographer: Emily Craver & Emily Pacilio

Director: Gavin Price

Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell

The New Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory Festival celebrates its 25th year this summer. In honor of this milestone, the festival departed from its usual open submission process and instead asked some of their most celebrated alumni to “identify companies they’re watching as the bold, risk-takers of the future,” to curate the festival. The second show in this summer’s lineup, One Small Step by The Saint Fortune Collective, was selected by Elevator Repair Service.

As the title suggests, One Small Step focuses on the 1969 lunar module landing, calling back to Neil Armstrong’s statement upon setting foot on the moon, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Saint Fortune Collective uses music, dance, video, and archival sound recording to depict a fantastical version of the moon landing. The show follows Neil Armstrong (Gavin Price), Michael Collins (Natalie Mack), and Buzz Aldrin (John Gasper) through preparing for the moon launch, traveling into orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon’s surface, and Collins orbiting to the dark side of the moon. During their journey, they encounter dancing moon-dwellers (Emily Craver and Emily Pacilio) and the Moon himself (Jack Frederick). Armstrong eats a glowing moon rock, Collins sings a duet with the Moon, Aldrin cavorts with the bat-winged moon dwellers. They are forever changed by the experience, ending the show in radically different physical forms. The show features music by Natalie Mack and Jack Frederick with The Tender Band; most of the spoken text is recorded or archival and draws on sources as diverse as JFK, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Adams Locke’s Great Moon Hoax of 1935, and, of course, recordings of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins communicating with Ground Control in Houston. 

One Small Step is about the 1969 moon landing in the same way that Prospero’s Books is an adaptation of The Tempest—the source is clear and the product is visually stunning, but it’s easy to lose sight of the plot and let your mind wander. It’s less a play than a multimedia dance piece; the performances, while good, feel secondary to the show’s very strong design elements. Emily Craver and Emily Pacilio’s choreography is alternately ethereal and goofy in all the best ways, clearly communicating a tone that is otherworldly while reminding us not to take things too seriously. The set (John Gasper and director Gavin Price), video (Gasper), and costumes (Parron Allen) all echo the tone of eerie humor. The sound design, also by Gasper and Price, is perhaps the weakest design component, often too loud while at the same time difficult to decipher some of the archival recordings.

With One Small Step,The Saint Fortune Collective offers some thoughtful contemplation about the moon in myth and in reality. The play also has some very funny moments that could be expanded further. It feels like One Small Step has a strong future ahead of it, but still needs further development. It’s a poor fit for patrons seeking a traditional, straightforward, or realistic narrative, but is a worthy outing for fans of avant-garde work.

Reviewed on 6 July 2018 | Image: Jack Frederick

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