Manual Cinema’s ADA | AVA

Chicago performance group Manual Cinema has a performance running for another week down in the Financial District at 3LD Arts and Technology Center. It’s a co-production with The Tank, a great nonprofit that supports the development of new works. The show uses 4 overhead projectors, a live band, and actors to make a dialogue-free live-created shadow-play animation, complete with sound effects. The overall aesthetics reminded me of Limbo, an independent game, although less zombie-filled. The story is about two sisters, Ada, and Ava. Ava passes away and Ada has to cope with the grief of losing someone so close to her. We go through her memories of their time together and her fantasies light and dark as she mourns and perhaps begins to heal.

I don’t have too much to say except to recommend it highly. If I had one critique it would be that I wanted the story to be more surprising, or revelatory. The medium is at the same time familiar (animation) and new (live performance). They can show so many things and use metaphor (sometimes a bit heavy-handed in a 1940s way) in ways that a conventional play with dialogue would be hard-pressed to do. I wanted to learn something new about grieving, and afterwards I felt like I hadn’t. But then again, I’m still thinking about it, so perhaps I cannot yet put what I have learned into words.

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