The Infinite Hotel (Prototype, NY)
Music-theatre in tape
The Infinite Hotel is a music-theatre work presented in this year Prototype Festival (started on 5th and ending on 13th of January, 2019), played in Irondale theatre.
The Infinite Hotel invites viewers to an extraordinary experience to take part and to observe life and afterlife interacting with each other through music. Six people are living regular everyday lives with challenges and struggles, feeling like they are alone in their fights, but appears that all of them are solving similar dilemmas and all the characters are tied to each other through past but meet again in the present.
The project The Infinite Hotel does not fit to one genre frame. It is music-theatre performance played live, involving participation of one part of the viewers in action, while others just observe the scenes performed in front of their eyes and filmed: streaming live to the second part of the audience and recorded as a film. All of this at the same time and place. Even with such a variety of perception of the show, it seems that none of the viewer groups did get full experience. Participators saw up-close view of the scenes and “backstage” props prepared for filming. While involved in flow of events and action this part of the audience could not see the general view. The other group, the ones who were viewing from the balcony could observe scenes from the top and filmed angle of the action, seeing only what camera chose to present and lost the feeling of taking part in the show. They did not experience it first handedly.
Producers led the viewer’s eyes and actions so they only had few choices, which were also predetermined. The show was a closed-end story with not much space for interpretation in visual department. On the other hand, from the plot side, there were many things unsaid, that the viewer had to figure out by him/herself. For instance, the ghost with a phone on her neck came to the scene from the beginning of the show. Although, only in the end it got clear that she was a mother of the driver, who hit perspective pianist Ben by car. The plot was somewhat chronological with jumps from the past, filling in the context or disturbing the water with unclarity. Just like in the scene where Jib is explaining to Gary how she found a voice recording of Kenneth, a man she knew from her childhood. During the whole show there was always this element of duality, what is seen and what is not, what is said/sung/expressed by words and what is left in the silence.
Musical part of the show was full of rock sounds, enriched by classical touch of piano and old record’s inclusions, supported by electronic music sparks. Ranging from strong and able to sing anything voice of Jib (performed by Leah Siegel), to Gary’s (Joe Trombino) soft with a strong touch of grunge sounding voice, to uncertain and apologetic humming of Marris (Laura Gragtmans) by her daughter’s bed side, finally to Kenneth’s (Austin Durant) shouting-to-tone singing. Music soundscape was so wide. You could hear music played from vinyl record, performed by live piano player, live rock music band, street musicians who played bass and percussion of pots and pans, creating sounds even by using empty tin cans and other small metal objects and using recorded sounds together with video projections. All or the above somehow matching together and called by one name – The Infinite Hotel music-theatre show.
One must admit that the spectrum of the possible viewing points and angles provided for the viewer is impressive part of the project. It seems though, that it is also the weak point. By trying to handle so much action and plot lines, concentration of the main points was lost. On one hand, this is exactly the way humans are functioning at this crazy-fast-paced life with so much information that is too hard to process. On the other hand, this causes flatness of attention so no deeper meaning can break through tons of information that is overflowing a viewer. It looks like that is what had happened with this project too. The idea to show how people are interconnected even without realizing or through otherworldly ties was profound and touching but the form in which this idea was brought to viewer, stole the whole attention and the content was lost in between. Paradoxically, opposing to the main idea of the creators, the message, the main idea was sent, transmitted but it seems that it was not well heard, received because of connection failure – the white noise of technologies which stole the show.
In today’s world, when people can communicate even being thousands of miles apart from each other it gets very hard to look at the closest person‘s eyes. Therefore, because of lack of close social bonds people are feeling lonelier than, let us say, a century ago. This project shows that, although it is hard to believe, but there is almost no such thing as being alone because we all are connected in ways we are not even aware of: through ancestors, similar life stories, kindergartens and so on. By gathering various musical styles, performers from different backgrounds and several levels of action, creators of The Infinite Hotel underlines, that differences that are visible from first glace might be leveraged by profound similarities. This common root that means to be human – strong emotions (experience of losing a loved one, traumatic experiences, guilt, unfulfilled potential) and moving effect of music.