I walk up to the entrance of an unassuming warehouse. As I enter through the doors, I am taken into a study straight from my Victorian/Steampunk aesthetic dreams. The small crowd gathers as a silent, enigmatic woman makes her way through the confused throng of spectators. She is silent, yet her stare penetrates all she gazes upon. Our attention is then drawn to a mirror across the room. The lights dim and all we see is a caged heart beating in the mirror before the lights flicker back on. Thus begins the onboarding experience of what turned out to be a breathtaking, musical show – CAGES.
The onboarding experience prior to the official start of the musical show CAGES was brief, simple, and beautiful. While patrons wait for the show to begin, they get to hang out in a couple of open rooms. There’s a giant bar with a projected Steampunk aesthetic that literally made me whimper. Hey, a girl’s got an aesthetic to fawn over. While I didn’t get the chance to really check out the bar up close, it was fun watching the projected rain falling outside the bar window and take in all the little vials and such on the wall. On another wall, without context, patrons could take in an array of equations that won’t make sense until the show is completed. If you move into the adjoining room, you see a giant tree in the center, shadows flickering off of its bare branches. At intermission, subtle changes are made to these outside areas to remind patrons what they have uncovered during the first Act. Once the signal begins for patrons to get seated, patrons are taken through the streets that occupy the world of Anhedonia. Although brief, it is enough of an idea to serve as a primer before the show starts.
It’s difficult to feel comfortable enough to dive deep into the plot because the overall show is essentially a concept album brought to life by the Woolf and the Wondershow. As a fan of concept albums (seriously, they are immensely underrated and I will fight consumers who don’t appreciate the magic in these types of albums), I greatly appreciated how the story unfolded. While the storyline itself was simplistic and probably familiar to many, you can’t help but feel for the characters on stage who are trying to make sense of the world around them. That and the general idea of caging our emotions as well as the topic of an authoritarian power controlling its citizens through restrictions and punishments is something that is immensely relevant. Either way, while the plot itself could have been made a little bit more elaborate for my own personal tastes, it is relatable enough for many to immediately dive into.
What really helped to elevate the plot and the overall show of CAGES for me was the visual design. No one will be surprised by this, but I’m a nerd. So, imagine an overly giddy Sarah bouncing up and down in her seat while taking in the projected visuals on the backdrop almost immediately after the show. I started calculating what a headache the stage blocking must have been in order to synchronize between what I thought was a two projection system. While I was scratching my head trying to figure this all out, it was fun taking in all the different visual inspirations that popped up on the backdrop. There were moments that harked back to the Silent Film era, which were a hoot to take in and – at times – I think I saw a fair bit of German Expressionism. I’m not 100% sure, but the visuals and the design of the world of Anhedonia were definitely striking.
Overall, I really enjoyed CAGES. While I enjoyed the musical offerings that Woolf and the Wondershow provided for us in this conceptual piece, I do think that it might be a bit niche for some audiences (thinking more of the traditional hoity toity Broadway crowd). The immersive elements before the show begins and during intermission help to keep the patrons within the realm of the world the team are trying to create. This is further cemented by the color palette utilized in the designing process as well as the costume designs that we don’t get to see enough of -in my opinion – during the show. I highly recommend the show and, if anyone has any idea of when the album for this show is coming out, please throw the info at my face.
CAGES has extended their show run into January of 2020. Tickets are available at https://www.cagesdtla.com/ . I do recommend that those with strobe sensitivity proceed with caution. There are some pretty significant strobe sequences that will either trigger headaches or possibly trigger seizures.
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