New Haven was the tryout location for New York and Broadway for many years, and the city still enjoys remarkable theater. If tonight’s experience was at all typical, then I’m in for a good ride.
As part of the three week Arts & Ideas Festival, Stuck Elevator has returned after its premiere two years ago. Seven years in the making, the young composer and lyricist have created a riveting, unique experience, mashing up opera and hip hop. I know, I thought it sounded pretty awful, too, but somehow this blending really worked.
Based on the true experience of a Chinese illegal immigrant called “The Take-Out Man” in a fantasy/nightmare sequence (because he is a take out delivery man), Stuck recounts his 81 hours trapped in an elevator in a Bronx apartment building. As he becomes more delirious, we journey with him through the harrowing voyage to the U.S., memories of his family in China, and the impossibilities of his life in America and hole he all too easily dug for himself.
Gloriously sung in both English and Mandarin by the Korean-American tenor Julius Ahn, Guang broke my heart over and over. Then at the end, when for whatever reason the elevator mysteriously began working again at 3 a.m., hunched over, he silently walks out of the “elevator” space and off the stage. The end. Talk about an invisible man.
The talented cast included a Latino tenor who can rap and play a Bronx drag queen and equally talented singers playing several roles. Then there’s the embodied elevator “Otis” that takes on Guang, “The Take-Out Man” in a visually stunning wrestling match. The percussion with chop sticks would give Stomp a run for its drumming. All this in a tiny black box theater in New Haven.
This one has a big future. Watch out for it.