By Marcina Zaccaria
In the desert, sweating and praying for the divine, we find unmistakable shamanistic glory in The Portal.
Offering tribal music, it’s not Hair. Running through vast space, encountering a figure of death, Creator/ Director/ Producer Luke Comer has conceived of a world with vision quest and sword fights in this rock odyssey. Channeling in, the male hero moves in time with Screen Actors Dante and Beatrice. Following the Frontman through a door, the audience takes in the possibility of a world outside oneself.
Billy Lewis, Jr. (Glee, Spring Awakening) delivers a scaled back performance, recalling all of the fervor of Hedwig. The loud music is felt through his entire body. Gilly Gonzalez on percussion and Paul Casanova, guitarist for Gloria Gaynor, bring all the love for the concert hall to the stage. Original music is composed by Tierro Lee. The Frontman delivers monologues and adds lyrics, but the performance is largely chanting and film. With songs like “Trance,” “Spiral,” and “Reaper,” there’s room to get lost in the repetition.
With long sequences of video behind two female dancers, this mystical mountain journey includes fractals and other images inspired by Colorado’s landscape. It’s as though the planetarium show is graced by the choreography of Jessica Chen. Encountering the natural architecture of the earth and air on screen, the performers move in sync. On the wide stage at the Minetta Lane Theatre, though, something seems vacant. There was no dirt on the floor or stones on the stage. Instead, what remains is a longer adventure fantasy, crafted by those who truly enjoy shamanism and old school video games. Without rolling the dice to get to the next level, the main character experiences falls, moments of ecstasy, and visitation by an astonishingly credible Reaper.
Of course, show creators were hoping to weave a desert journey full of challenge and new perception that would rival Pink Floyd’s The Wall. With every sense of guidance and no sense of gravity, The Portal stops just short of full-scale success. What is missing in Luke Comer’s spectacle is the weight.
So many elements of the performance are like a music video. However, the 80s style was appreciated. For those of us so accustomed to images of long-haired snake charmers in heavy metal videos, The Portal brings back, what in those days, seemed so avant.
The Portal is continuing at The Minetta Lane Theatre, located at 18 Minetta Lane, between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue in New York City – www.ThePortalNYC.com
Photos: Russ Rowland