|The Hilliard Ensemble, showing versatility as movers. Photo: Mario Del Curto|
The changes of the elaborate sets in the Rose Theater proved to be the most action-packed sequences, performed by the stagehands in near darkness with the curtain raised. The second setting is the front of a house, complete with clay tiled roof, gutters, a dumpster out back, and venetian or vertical blinds that open to reveal the house's occupants in three apartments, plus a workshop hidden behind a garage door. The men alternate sung lines by Maurice Blanchot about life and death as birds chirp and airplanes and police sirens pass by. A stark, leafless tree's shadow is cast on the house. Again, the banal is elevated to the universal through song.
Before the next set change, the singers gather around a bicycle like spies exchanging information and sing a lovely song setting of Kafka text, with the refrain of "I don't know" in close, shaded harmonies, ending with a big verbal wink: "It's a wonder we don't burst into song." Touché.
The third set seems to be one corner of a rose-wallpapered hotel room, complete with an oversized bed, a thermostat, and a cheap tv. Beckett is the source for the text, phrases like pretzel nuggets popped into one's mouth—salty, crunchy, nearly meaningless. The men wander in the room; one turns on the thermostat, which hums. They gaze out the tall windows which let sharp light into the dark room. They set up a slide projector and screen, showing nostalgic images of family vacations. The final image gives hope: instead of a still image, it is a film of a stream which burbles and glitters—like music, a source of life amid the stasis of a man-made world.