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Hollywood Fringe Review: Valley of Light

Making its world premiere at Hollywood Fringe Festival, Valley of Light is set in a post-apocalyptic future that is more mythic quest than science fiction, its characters bearing names (Fable, Mars, Dawn) that suggest archetypes rather than individuals. Moreover, it is self-reflexive – a story about stories – and one of the musical’s pleasant conceits is that one of its characters is a  balladeer whose songs reveal the play’s backstory, laying the blame for the current state of the world on a fearsome Beast.

Perhaps taking the songs too literally, Mars (Adriano Jade), sets off on a quest to slay the Beast in hope of restoring the world to its former glory. Along the way, Mars encounters Willow (Michaela Skaribas), who suffers short-term memory loss, and Amber (Erlene Sam-Peal), who acts as guide through the labyrinthine ruins of a dead city. Eventually finding “The Beast,” Mars sees that he is not the monster described in Fable’s song and realizes that real-life solutions require something more complex than killing an evil villain.

It is a good message, but it takes two hours to reach the pay-off, and long before then the audience has probably guessed where the story is heading. Meanwhile, the running time is padded with a romance between Willow and Amber, which doesn’t really dovetail with the main story, pushing our main characters offstage for too long.

Valley of Light review
The cast of Valley of Light

The result is that Valley of Light overstays its welcome in spite of some good songs delivered by talented performers, accompanied by live piano and percussion. Additionally, Tess Botts, as Fable, not only sings the balladeer’s songs; she accompanies herself on guitar – a nice touch that helps fill out the sound of the small ensemble and lends authenticity to the character’s role in the story. The choreography is nicely done, with background singers slithering across the stage while holding gossamer fabrics that ripple in the breeze, and the staging places singing voices in widely different areas of the performance space, creating stereo effects worthy of a Pink Floyd concert. The harmonies are not always quite as precise as we would like, but overall the singers acquit themselves quite well.

Deconstructing myth is tricky business. The power of those stories comes from their straightforward delineation of heroes and villains. The challenge is to mine the material for greater complexity without dimming the power of that simplicity. Joseph Conrad managed that in Heart of Darkness, rendering Marlow’s search for Kurtz as the modern equivalent of a mythic quest. In Valley of Light, it feels as if Mars found Kurtz, only to realize he was not worth they journey.

Valley of Light
2

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Valley of Light features good songs delivered by a talented cast, but at two hours its post-apocalyptic mythic quest goes on too long, giving the audience plenty of time to guess the lesson the protagonist will learn at the climax.

Valley of Light reviewCredits: Written, Directed & Composed by Naomi Melville. Produced by Jason Pollak, Michaela Skaribas. Choreographed by Sydney Gamble. Music Director: Soni Sharma. Stage Managers: Ariana Gabier, Adam Hassan, Miles Berman. Scenic Designer: Jacob Hollens. Costume Designer: Court Rhodes. Sound Design: Philip Saguil. Fight Choreography: Trojan Stunt Team. 2 hrs. Recommended for ages 12+.

Cast:

  • Tess Botts as Fable
  • Adriano Jade as Mars
  • Michaela Spellman as Dawn
  • Michaela Skaribas as Willow
  • Erlene Sam-Peal as Amber
  • Jason Pollak as Stone
  • Allyse Besné/Megan Gladden as Echoes

 

Valley of Light gives its final performance at Hollywood Fringe Festival on Saturday June 24 at 8pm on the Main Stage of the The Broadwater Theatre. The address is 1076 Lillian Way in Hollywood. Get more information here.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.