Dancing Sky's Pandemics, Pratfalls and Prayers is a warm blanket for Pandemic Times
by Ezekiel McAdams
September 17 2021
Dancing Sky Theatre's first production of the season, Pandemics, Pratfalls and Prayers is a quintessential Fringe play dwelling on the discourse, tribulations, community and overwhelming exasperation of the last year and a half in a global pandemic. The play is very expressionist, experiential by design, utilizing heavy symbolism, existentialism all under the auspices of mask work.
The production was originally conceptualized by Dancing Sky's artistic director, Angus Ferguson. Ferguson also directed. The production was formed and written through collaboration and was co-created by Jenna Berenbaum, Alyssa Billingsley, Skye Brandon, Sheldon Corbett, Crispi Lord and Jensine Emeline. The co-creators wore multiple hats with Berenbaum, Billingsley, Brandon and Lord performing as an ensemble cast. Corbett contributed as sole musician, Emeline facilitated as the production's stage manager and Lord led as set designer.
The production doesn't have a typical structure, instead using a cavalcade of theatre styles to illustrate, enlighten and inspire the audience. The production's experimental nature is not a detriment, rather a heartfelt, warm blanket of community theatre that leaves the audience mentally full with warm fuzzies. The production has a very subtle nudge, gently prodding its audience to be more mindful and do better as a community.
The loose structure acts almost as guide and parable of a community coming together. Evolving from a village, to a town and finally a city. The cast play multiple roles using mask work and physical comedy to illustrate the community growing.
Interspersed in between the various theatre segments and techniques, the four actors utilize both short form monologues and rhyming couplets. Throughout the production, Billingsley and Brandon don separate masks illustrating the physical form of capitalism and demeaning the other characters through physical humor and grunts. These altercations are the standout of the production and provide levity.
Never once does the production feel arduous or that it is constant preaching. Rather, it's an artistic showcase for the creative team's exasperation of the pandemic.
The direction by Ferguson is subtle, allowing the actors to play and the world and ideas envisioned to slowly wash over the audience without beating the messaging over their heads. The direction perfectly captures a sense of whimsy.
The music beautifully fills the background bridging the gap of the performance. This allows the music to be a powerful ambience for both the performers and the audience. While Corbett is the lead musician, he is joined by Emeline and the four performers throughout. Corbett envelops the audience with folksy orchestral lullabies that act as the perfect passport to the world unfolding on stage.
The set design by Lord elicits a very rustic atmosphere allowing the performers to utilize the small houses both as props and set dressing. Evgenia Mikhaylova conributed with the design. The three youth designers helped construct the various pieces, masks, puppets and houses. The mask work by youth designers, Anaiah Adair, Shahane Tamrazyan and Nicole Zalesk are wonderfully animated and expressive which help heighten the character's personality.
While a love letter of artistic expression by the Saskatchewan theatre community, Pandemics, Pratfalls and Prayers is also a reprieve for theatre lovers. With the beautiful, open, prairie skies operating as the production's skylight, the play takes you on a journey of the communal spirit. The production is a must see for those yearning to escape.
Pandemics, Pratfalls and Prayers is at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham. The production runs from September 10-19. More information is provided at the Dancing Sky website https://www.dancingskytheatre.com. A meal is also offered if you order in advance. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or at the On The Boards website https://ontheboards.ca/events/pandemics-pratfalls-prayers/