Italo Calvino's 1965 collection of capricious, absurd short stories, "Cosmicomics" offers a delightfully speculative spin on notions of space and time that still enchants readers today. And "Cosmicomics" has proved irresistible to theater-makers along the way too.
Now director Rudy Ramirez in collaboration with aerial arts toupe Sky Candy give it a go in production of their own playing at the Long Center through June 28.
Calvino's exuberant little tales chart a fanciful history of the universe, each based on metaphysical conceipts and scientific hypotheses, some proven true, some now held as myth.
The formation of the solar system, the evolution of life creatures from the oceans to land, the dismal fate of the dinosaurs serve all as launch points for Calvino's free-spirited intellectual imaginings. A shape-shifting immortal character with the unpronounceable name of Qfwfq narrates the tales which are, in truth, ontological puzzles cloaked as quasi-sci-fi fairy tales.
Unforunately, in the current realization by Ramirez and Sky Candy, Calvino's concise, delicate little wonders end up a sprawling, frivilous clutter that misses the complexity of Calvino's deliberately weightless style and fails to dazzle or entertain with any circus spectaculars.
Running a too-long two-hours, this "Cosmicomics" has 15 performers and musicians enacting multiple roles, some alighting on silks or trapazees to work through simple maneuvers and poses that for the most part contribute little theatrical substance. And even Calvino's deliberatly fabulist characters wind up portrayed too simplistically outsized, even hammy -- even within the commedia dell'arte style that's intended in this production.
With its imaginative wanderings, "Cosmicomics" is ripe for theatrical interpretation. This spin, however, misses out.