Open this ‘Cabinet’ for series of surprisesThe pair onstage in the performance of “Cabinet,” by the Czech ensemble Image Theater, are like your crazy aunt and uncle, the ones you wanted to bring to show-and-tell. Sure, they’re adults. Sure, they’re related to you and you should treat them with respect. But they just do the darndest things and wear the strangest clothes.
Eliska Skarkeova and Josef Tichy begin “Cabinet” as a confused wandering. One of them meanders onstage and adjusts some props. The other steps down to the audience to look around, perhaps at the walls, which are covered with whimsical drawings of inventions.
If you’re not attentive, you can hardly tell that the show’s begun. And when it does, the two have already crept into your consciousness with a gentle but strange warmth.
By the time this aunt and uncle have ushered you into their bizarre world, you begin to suspect that the child with the wild imagination is not you. Not at all.
This black-light mime production is a satire on the evils of a civilization’s expansion. According to a “Professor Prazak,” every new invention brings a problem, and each new problem can only be solved with a new invention. Thus, the production of “Cabinet” revolves around a cabinet full of surprises, as it praises the miracle of human imagination behind the technology.
As nostalgic music plays, Skarkeova and Tichy show off new inventions and invite participation from an unsuspecting audience. But inside the cabinet is a completely different world, suggestive of the geometric designs of 1990s screen savers.
When this world is invoked, dancers enter the stage like sprites. Ultraviolet lights bring their costumes aglow, thanks to the staging against a black curtain, though the dancer’s faces are usually unlit. As they move, their costumes seem to expand or even fly, as if defying physics.
Some say black-light theater originated in Asia; others think it began elsewhere. But today, its mecca is the Czech Republic.
Tichy, along with Eva Asterova and Petr Liska, helped write the screenplay to “Cabinet,” which premiered in Prague in 1997.
Alexander Eihao and Eva Asterova founded Image Theater in 1989 in Prague to create an independent theater based on the synthesis of black-light theater, dance, modern jazz and pantomime. Their works are also intended to be funny, some more for children than adults.
The theater’s first run in Korea was at the World Music Theater Festival in Uijeongbu last May. For this showing, organized in part by Amp, Image Theater is also performing “The Best of Image,” a shorter 50-minute production that is particularly suitable for families with younger kids.
by Joe Yong-hee
Performances are Tuesdays to Sundays through Jan. 31 at Polymedia Theater in Daehangno, northeastern Seoul. Tickets are 20,000 won ($17) for children and 35,000 won for adults. Go to www.image2004.com for details.