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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Cross-cultural performance at the Guthrie

By Jeesun Choi

A story about an ordinary guy from Minnesota, who, due to a brain injury from a motorcycle accident, wakes to the aboriginals, gospel choir, a bunch of clowns and Native Pride Dancers showing him the path to healing cannot be any more unique than it already is. I settled into my seat in the Dowling Studio of Guthrie Theatre, waiting to be uprooted by this whirlwind of a journey across cultures, identities and worlds. Such uprooting never took place.

A collaboration between the Tutti Ensemble from Australia and Interact Theatre, leaders in presenting professional theatre with artists with disabilities, ‘Northern Lights / Southern Cross’ gives voice to everyone without exception. Thoughts, history, story and jokes are expressed without inhibitions, but the result is a little overwhelming.

The epic psychological and spiritual journey that Oki, the protagonist, goes through is expressed through a deluge of people, color and shapes. However, these expressions are not connected to each other; songs stand on their own and each joke receives its own laughter. The sense of communion among the performers and the audience is not achieved.

As much as the elements in the performance are refreshingly new and unheard, the production itself leans on the safe side. As powerful as they sound, the members of the Twin Cities Gospel Choir sat dressed as rocks upstage, contributing to the general clutter on stage. Indigenous actors presented their identity through costume, music and movement, but not through the spiritual connection with the audience. There were too many actors on stage at a time, tipping the delicate balance between being visually powerful and distracting.

To describe Kevin Kling’s portrayal of Oki, he lacks the drive that initiates the journey and thus passively follows the stories, jokes and situations. Oki is meek and inquisitive, brave enough to venture into a world of spirits, yet not brave enough to let the audience in, too.

However, there were jewel-like moments where I felt the pull that I longed for. The short, but tender connection between Oki and his daughter, the whimsical satire of Oki’s funeral, and the jovial atmosphere surrounding the clowns generated a sense of fondness that lingered with me long after the show.

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