The Bushwick Starr and West Yorkshire Playhouse present the world premiere of this music-theater piece: a lo-fi, idiosyncratic, folk-blues requiem written from theoretical or actual (you decide) conversations with the dead. More…
Heather talks to dead people, gets freaked out and writes music. These songs are performed alongside poorly remembered Methodist hymns from the 1800s, hyperbolized family mythologies, and community rituals of the ridiculous in the form of a gothic catholic mass- because how else can you address your soul? Written by Obie Award-winning composer and performer Heather Christian, known for her work with her genre-defying group the Arbornauts, 'Animal Wisdom' is a musical offering created by sinners and science nerds for believers and non-believers alike.
"Despite her birdlike fragility, the composer-performer isn’t actually small—not if you factor in the incredible sounds she makes with her voice and the way she hammers music out of a piano...'Animal Wisdom' is a Southern-style avant-cabaret séance...It’s part concert, part painful para-autobiography, and part old-fashioned magic act. This time, however, the woman onstage saws her own damned self in half." Full Review
“The show is equal parts concert and séance, and an unforgettable experience...She exists, she conjures, she illuminates through whisper and scream...The ghosts will keep speaking. She will sing whether or not we’re there, because they are there alongside the rest of us, circling the dragon-slayer in the body of a waif, humming with her, communing with her history, her stories, her voice, her electric ability to commune right back at us." Full Review
"Even agnostics may find themselves almost believing in the spirits, holy and otherwise, who possess Heather Christian’s truly one-of-a-kind opus...It is possible to grow impatient as the details of personal folklore accumulate, though some reminiscences have an affecting sting...When she raises her voice in harmony with her fellow performers, she does indeed soar into a realm that seems sufficient unto itself...These aural effects are almost matched by the visuals." Full Review
“That long, late-breaking episode of darkness is one of the most affecting parts of ‘Animal Wisdom’, a sweet, quirky musical meditation on death...The music is sweet and strong, combining the jangles of folk, blues, and gospel...Though she advertises 'Animal Wisdom' as a requiem-slash-séance, a quest to summon long-lost relations, Christian is just as clearly after buried parts of herself...'Animal Wisdom' occasionally founders on obviousness and ghost-story cliché." Full Review
"Christian's mass mixes precious spiritualist whimsy with gospel-like fervor in ways that feel at best like a genuine communing with the ghosts of the creator's own past, and at worst like an overextended therapy session...'Animal Wisdom' may not necessarily live up to its title in offering an eye-opening perspective on dealing with an awareness of death, but cumulatively, Christian's work accomplishes what all great requiem masses ought to do: It leaves us in a state of hushed reflection." Full Review
See it if you love southern folk and rock, characterizations, raw personal storytelling, unique theater.
Don't see it if bothered by part new-age part Christian spiritual talking to ghosts. The experience still works if you don't "buy" her metaphor however.
See it if you love beautiful voices, intimate settings, personal stories, spirituality, blues; show is a big, beautiful gift to the ear and the heart
Don't see it if you disdain spirituality, can't sit in darkness for 20 min (listening to soaring voices) - although phone lights allowed; otherwise, go!
See it if you liked Ghost Quartet, Futurity, Hadestown etc; impressive singing; incredible lighting courtesy of brilliant Andrew Schneider
Don't see it if if you need a plot; are annoyed by spirituality and southern gothic whimsy; don't want to sit in the pitch black for a good while
See it if you are willing to go along with this extraordinarily talented women's trek which includes wonderful music and lighting and a big character
Don't see it if you want a linear story line because there ain't none
See it if you want to see great story-telling, avant-garde theatre that isn't theatre but is also theatre, great musicians, and want a unique evening
Don't see it if you are claustrophobic and hate complete darkness (15 min in the pitch black - you are warned several times), want a traditional evening out
See it if You are interested in something different, like Southern bluesy-rock mixed with some gospel, a biographical-ish musical.
Don't see it if You don't like extended darkness (15 minutes in complete black), quirky characters, music on the louder-side
See it if you love emotionally-charged, powerhouse vocals, gorgeous harmonies (by band & choir)...intimate staging/lighting...whirlwind, quirky energy
Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with discussions re: religion, dead people... if you dislike fast-paced, offbeat shows
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