young adult theater

On the run from dystopia

Milagro's new touring show "Bi–" looks to a totalitarian future and blazes a path to the beauty of in-between

The year is 2089. The people of Tierra Plana live orderly lives along strict lines, both figuratively and literally. Walled off from the rest of the world, the xenophobic nation-state has descended into a totalitarian dystopia. The leaders demand order and cultural purity. This is the world Georgina Escobar has created in her new touring show Bi-, which had its world premiere at Milagro Theatre as part of the Fertile Ground Festival.

As a touring show intended mainly for young adult audiences, Bi- is didactic but never feels heavy-handed. The story is fairly simple: The government has instituted a policy of identity bracelets that will neatly categorize the citizens. Four young friends, uncertain about the idea of trying to conform to the strict identities of the state, set out on a journey to find a mysterious underground organization that might offer them freedom.

“Bi–,” and between. Photo: Russell J Young

The idea of boxes and categorization is strong in the show. How strong? Well, the citizens of Tierra Plana are called “squares.” The city itself is composed of hard right angles, represented by lines and boxes taped onstage. The characters shuffle along these narrow pathways, or jump from one platform to the next when inside the city, making great use of the space. There’s a minimal set here but the staging, combined with a Kraftwerk-inspired soundtrack by Lawrence Siulagi, gives the production a futuristic cartoony feeling.

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OCT’s ‘Fangs’ go deep

The company's Young Professionals go into the woods for a fable about werewolves and transformations and growing up in the scary semi-wilds of adolescence

Stephen Spotswood’s In the Forest She Grew Fangs, the latest offering of Oregon Children’s Theatres’ Young Professionals, is immersive (not just because someone nearly drowns in a lake), haunting (beyond its spooky, ever-morphing story), and as captivating as the wooded rural town the story’s teens are trapped in.

In the universe of popular films such as Carrie, Teen Wolf, and Twilight, and in the spirit of prior OCT shows Columbinus (also a Young Professionals production) and Zombie in Love, this tale never declares but strongly suggests that it’s about a teen girl’s werewolf transformation. If it’s not about that, then the lycanthropic theme is a metaphor for alienation and maturation. It almost doesn’t matter either way in a fable that shuffles various burdens between its main characters as they each serve their turn as princess, predator and prey.

In the forest, growing fangs. Photo: Pat Moran

In the forest, growing fangs. Photo: Pat Moran

Ideally, adolescence is the most aggressive phase in life. It’s when you learn, by experimenting, how much physical or mental force you need to exert if you want to defend yourself without damaging others. Because this is a drama, of course these characters overstep and people get hurt. The script is gritty, even shocking in spots, but all in service to the process of testing boundaries. Hopefully, the worst things people will ever say to you in your life are the things you hear in high school, before everyone knows better.

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