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Theater Fri Sep 10 2010
I've never really read comics. Not as a kid, not as an adult. One might think that would undercut my immersion into Redmoon's latest, an outdoor spectacle in the windows of the Museum of Contemporary Art's façade, but the remarkable thing about The Astronaut's Birthday is the warm Technicolor cloud of nostalgia it leaves in its wake. I've never read comics, I've never been into sci-fi, but as I watched this ramshackle tale fold and unfold across 18 comic book-style window panes, I felt as if I had. I began to remember rainy Saturdays, lying next to a dusty stack of flimsy pulp comics, the synthetic sounds of lasers and rockets and clashing and whirring ringing in my ears. That never happened, but that doesn't matter. There's a lot that doesn't matter here: the chilly breeze, the distant sirens, and even the story -- fittingly simple, unobtrusive, there as a vehicle for the visual. There's a reason Redmoon calls their work live spectacle.
Of course a solid script is always a plus; Redmoon's brilliant production of The Cabinet spouted prose as vibrant and engaging as the action itself. But the wooden words and hackneyed themes here don't distract, because in a way they are as intrinsic to the nostalgia as the spectacle. As a child, I spent hours lost in the complexity of my storybook's illustrations, the evolution from page-to-page and panel-to-panel; the story could wait because there was too much detail on each page to speed through. I felt the same way about The Astronaut's Birthday, which succeeds most when it lets the illustrations do the telling (I probably could've watched the swirling center of the magical orb all night, even sans hallucinogens).
It's a simple story set in a fantasy world where an elevator operator can become an astronaut, where a child can sneak onto a spaceship, where there is such a thing as an "Earth Express" button: an express jaunt back to a time that may have never happened, but feels cozy all the same.
The Astronaut's Birthday runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 7:30pm through September 26. Tickets are $15 for Thursday, and $20 for Friday and Sunday. All performances take place in the Museum of Contemporary Art Plaza (220 East Chicago Avenue). Tickets can be purchased here, here, or by calling 312-850-8440 ×111.