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Thoughts & Prayers – TADA! Youth Theater, New York City

Director/Creator/Choreographer: Lauren Hlubny

 Composer: Thomas Giles

 Book: Alexis Roblan

 Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers

 It seems the state of the world of late is foisting outrage fatigue among humans across the globe.  With the twenty-four-seven news cycle, covering everything from environmental devastation to political unrest to local and national tragedies, there is always something out there to break our hearts or ignite a fire in our bellies.  From the familial to the global, the human capacity to understand and process suffering seems to be tested over and over and over again.  And we are all simply left with the questions “What can I do?  What can be done?”

Danse Theatre Surreality’s latest piece, Thoughts & Prayers, helmed by the talented Lauren Hlubny,  examines both the individual/familial reaction as well as those of governments and activists to the tragedies with which we are sadly all too familiar.  Using dialogue, exquisite live music composed by Thomas Giles (who also performs as Felix in the piece), dance, and poignant expressive symbolism to unpack these pervasive unanswerable questions.

Structured around five specific types of events (shooting, natural disaster, family tragedy, governmental transgression, and terrorist attack), the structure loops back on itself and repeats themes of text and choreography.  Giles and Emma Factor (Dana) revisit phrases of movement and lines of dialogue with different energy and intentionality, becoming more fragmented as the tragedies grow in scale. It is visceral and poignant, and teems with specificity while allowing itself room to breathe as a production.

Giles and Factor are not alone onstage.  They are joined by two groups: strings, who represent the activists; and saxes, who represent the government/status quo.  As the domestic drama between Felix and Dana unfolds, the two factions on opposite sides of the stage glare at one another, sometimes they even rise to stalk over and stare down their foes.  With the tragedies mounting, the musicians rise from their seats and surround the action, obstructing a large part of the domestic scene from view as they play their instruments with full fortissimo force and battle it out in a melodious cacophony.  It is not until after the final upheaval that the musicians listen to one another’s tunes and harmonize, and the audience can once again see the couple at the core of the action.

Thoughts & Prayers is a gripping and beautifully executed investigation of the troubles of our times and the various reactions to them.  It is a rich and detailed hour of performance that never feels rushed or overwrought.  Though the performance is an hour, there is an optional talkback after each performance with members of the arts community and/or activist groups to continue the conversation beyond the show.  It is very worth staying for the continued conversation, but audiences should plan to stick around for up to another hour to be a part of the post-show dialogue.


 Runs until 29 September 2019 | Photo Credit: Regal Pictures/ Cathleen Marie Thérèse Parra

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