Theater Preview: MOMENTOS MORI (Manual Cinema)

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by Jim Allen on March 22, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


I have seen the Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema on their home turf twice, and the theatricality is awesome. This endlessly inventive group of artists uses disarmingly simple tools — live music, paper puppets, overhead projectors — to tell transformative stories. Their enchanting works unsettle the boundaries between cinema and theater.

Coming to The Broad Stage in Santa Monica for one weekend only, April 12-15, 2019, you’ll see magic occur. Combining analog craftsmanship and digital dexterity, the ensemble engineers a live movie before the audience’s eyes in this meditation on death and ephemerality.

With Mementos Mori, a feature-length performance of cinematic shadow puppetry, six performers offer a beguiling meditation on how digital culture is changing our relationship to death and dying. (If you’re wondering about the title, it simply means objects which serve as a warning or reminder of death, such as a skull; it’s Latin for “remember that you must die.”) Hundreds of paper shadow puppets interact with these live actors in silhouette, while props, video, and a score for live chamber ensemble and electronics complete the immersive multimedia experience, imbuing the experience of attending a movie with a live theatrical immediacy. If you think this is some mere shadow puppet show, get ready to be amazed by an inventiveness that defies categorization.

Mementos Mori weaves together three interrelated stories about death and technology. This miracle of joyful cine-nostalgia follows Death as she washes up on the California shore, trades her scythe for an iPhone app, and wanders Hollywood, swiping loss and unexpected connection into the otherwise disparate lives of a ghost, a seven-year-old girl, and an elderly projectionist.

The absolute overwhelming logistics are so smooth in this fascinating work of mastery that it defies reality, even as you watch the procedure behind the illusion. Straightforward yet enigmatic, murky yet packed with unpredictable humor, pained yet not downhearted, this is a melancholic contemplation on life, love and death.

photos courtesy of Manual Cinema

Momentos Mori
Manual Cinema
The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage
1310 11th St in Santa Monica
plays April 12-14, 2019
for tickets, call 310.434.3200 or visit The Broad

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