It’s a rare gift to be able to tell a story without using words. And it’s even less common for us to get to witness such beauty on Austin stages.
Caroline Reck’s “The Orchid Flotilla,” playing through September 20th at Salvage Vanguard, is a beautiful, eloquent performance that needs no dialogue to pull us into the story. And the powerful effects of a play without dialogue can be difficult to put into words.
On a small floating island in a dystopian, but not too distant future, a woman perseveres: finding moments of joy, even in isolation. Like a modern Robinson Crusoe, alone and without “proper” equipment, she helps us consider everyday material goods for their use-value rather than their price tags.
K. Eliot Haynes’ lovely sound design pairs with Megan Reilly’s dynamic lighting to create a world for the play that runs the gamut of playful, serene, and sad. These production elements saturate the performance with atmosphere and serve as profound backdrop for Reck’s movements.
Although perhaps Reck’s work in the show is not what we would normally consider “puppetry,” the object manipulation, body puppetry, and shadow puppetry of her play treats everything with carefully crafted intention.
That’s one of Glass Half Full Theatre’s primary goals: to use physical storytelling in which the premise of the story is designed to call attention to a situation that’s happening in the world.
In this case, it has to do with the wastefulness of our current era – projecting it out into a future not unlike Pixar’s “WALL-E.” However, in “The Orchid Flotilla,” it isn’t sci-fi technology that saves the day, but evolution and adaptation.
But Glass Half Full’s productions are different every time, and Reck is emphatic that her shows aren’t “issue” plays. Rather, Reck is invested in “looking at nostalgia and what makes us value different things in humanity.”
She laughs and adds, “It has that kind of dirty hippie quality to it, but every genre has been different based on what needs to be told.”
Reck staged “The Orchid Flotilla” in 2012, netting nominations from the Austin Critics’ Table for her performance and for Outstanding Theatrical Event.
A wonderfully talented performer, Reck has a background in physical theater, having studied at the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, and we get to witness the fruits of that training here. We also get to learn a bit about botany and to take away a sense of love and hope in the face of tremendous odds.
“The Orchid Flotilla” continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays at Salvage Vanguard Theater. www.glasshalffulltheatre.com