By Moe Angelos and James Gibbs; Directed by Marianne Weems
Produced by The Builders Association
Off Off Broadway, Play
Ran through 12.18.16
3LD Art & Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street
by Zak Risinger on 12.21.16
Hannah Heller in Elements of Oz. Photo by Gennadi Novash.
BOTTOM LINE: An ultra-creative downtown theatrical experience that pulls the curtain back on some of the best kept secrets and little known facts about the iconic film classic The Wizard of Oz.
The two-time Obie Award-winning performance and media company The Builders Association has created magic again with their remount of the highly acclaimed Elements of Oz. In the wake of time when technical awards are getting bumped from television broadcast on award shows or not even recognized at all, The Builders Association puts a group of technical wizards front and center to work their magic as they support the highly adaptive work of a riveting ensemble featuring Moe Angelos, Hannah Heller, and Sean Donovan. The audience is transported—via multiple screens, projections, music, and an uber-awesome smart phone app created by LeClair Lucas—from dreary black and white Kansas to the wonderful Technicolor world of Oz with humorous and critical commentary sprinkled throughout this inventive theatrical experience.
When entering the theatre, the audience is encouraged to download the Elements of Oz app on their smart phone so they can fully experience all the special tricks that the evening has in store. Avid smart phone users, don't fret. The Builders Association lends portable phone chargers free of charge—be sure to bring a photo ID so you can take part in this thoughtful service. Once the app is downloaded, you get a different view of the space you're sitting in, complete with sepia treatment and falling rain. If you focus your phone on your playbill there are cool hidden features, like a tiny tornado that literally jumps off the page in your lap. This is just one of the many incredible additions that Lucas's app provides. Random sound effects, flying monkeys, and YouTube choruses are just a few of the other fun treats in store throughout the evening.
The cast of three performers is truly outstanding. Moe Angelos, who does double duty as both a performer and co-author, acts as a narrator of sorts, bringing her own brand of super fan meets crazy cat lady. Angelos confidently guides the audience through this whirlwind of an event, playing multiple characters and giving the audience special insight into behind-the-scene secrets of the original film version of The Wizard of Oz. Hannah Heller is a force to be reckoned with, expertly navigating the fragile psyche of the late Judy Garland, the Wicked Witch of the West, and a spot-on portrayal of Ayn Rand. Last but certainly not least, Sean Donovan is captivating in his depictions of Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Wizard, and displays his singing talents while crooning a haunting ditty dubbed over the classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" scene.
The final star of the show is the technical crew, who has created real magic on the stage. A film crew shoots recreations of famous scenes from the film and then expertly and efficiently edits the footage that was just shot live into new film played throughout the performance. Moving screens, lights, and live music are just a few of the other bits of trickery involved. We see all the weird tricks that happen on a film set so that the veil of wonder is thrown off, just as the Wizard himself is debunked as nothing more than a man behind a screen. Elements of Oz is a magical, intellectual theatrical event that is perfect for anyone who is a fan of The Wizard of Oz, history, movie-making magic, or being transported to a better place for a short time to forget about reality and glimpse a better place that might only exist in our dreams.
(Elements of Oz played at 3LD Art & Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street, through December 18, 2016. The running time was 90 minutes, no intermission. Tickets were $25. For more information on upcoming performances visit thebuildersassociation.org.)
Elements of Oz is by Moe Angelos and James Gibbs. Directed by Marianne Weems. Set Design is by Neal Wilkinson. Lighting Design is by Jennifer Tipton. Sound Design is by Dan Dobson.
The cast is Moe Angelos, Sean Donovan, and Hannah Heller.