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The images are wonderful. An opening in shadow. Small birds handled by tall people. White curtains could be sails or rice paper when we meet Sea of Birds, Sebastienne Mundheim’s newest work for the Live Arts Festival. The staging is a remarkable feat of engineering: a skeletal ship, a tent of dreams, a sea where birds swim and fly.
Mundheim is lucky in her collaborators. And in the performance space, Northern Liberties’ Ice Box Projects Space. The multimedia piece is dance, puppetry, theater, video and an original score by James Sugg.
Like the composer, many of the artists (five dancers and a guitarist) are also appearing in their own works at the Philadelphia festival, which runs through September 13. These include Kate Watson-Wallace, whose choreography enriches Sea of Birds with simple, sometimes surprising, floor work and unusual use of props— shaken twigs among them.
The fabrication, which has an Asian influence, includes support from Allison St. Pierre. Andrew Warner and Andrea Campbell’s video work is ingenious.
The work limps when Mundheim reverts to oral storytelling about her mother’s childhood in war-torn Latvia. Her delivery is slow, the writing prosaic; a bed used seems too heavy given the delicacy of the staging that has come before.
Remarkably, Sea of Birds takes barely an hour. It’s a work of considerable beauty that wants revision: more show, less tell.
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