“We went to a show tonight – it’s a completely new style of performance! So great,” my friend Leah’s text message read on July 8th. Rarely had I witnessed such excitement from my friend about a performance she had seen. I did not let own curiosity diminish, especially when I continued reading that text: “It’s been extended through July 26th and we highly recommend!” I bought tickets immediately after reading a brief about the show, and seeing its promo short clip. To my surprise, I made it to that one show twice in two weeks. It was very exceptional, indeed.
ADA|AVA is a live, wordless performance that combines images reflected on a large screen by four projectors, and the reflections of two actors (Julia Miller as Ada and Lizi Breit as Ava) to create a short “cartoonish” movie that is directed before the eyes of the audience. While the projectors replicate images created through moving micro paper puppets, actors wear similar outfits and face profiles so they reflect images resembling twin elderly sisters. The cast is of a highly talented caliber: four people behind the projectors, three musicians (clarinet, guitar, Rhodes piano and cello), two songs (All of Me, Solitude) and vocal sound effects.
The story evolves around two aging twin sisters living in a New England gothic setting, who fix the light of the nearby lighthouse and sip on their tea every evening while playing chess. The death of one sister (Ava) creates unexpected emptiness and a feeling of loss for the other sister. Haunting images of Ava visit Ada and lure her into the theme park next door, declaring the start of a journey into a deep confrontation with loneliness. However, Ada learns how, and when, is the time to carry on with her life while still cherishing all the memories lived by here gone sister.
Through the music, moving slides and shadowed expressions, the show is powerfully successful at conveying emotions, and lessons, without the exchange of conversation. The display of the sisters’ playback of their childhood created a feeling of longing, as did all of the accompanying tones of music and voices. I was moved in many different ways. I saw beauty in the midst of sadness. It was an artsy, well-rounded, brilliant show.
The show is created by Manual Cinema, a contemporary shadow puppetry performance group based in Chicago, IL, and was performed in New York City last summer at 3LD Art & Technology Center where we watched it. ADA|AVA is part of Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina (May 27th– June 12th, 2016).