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New Noise Runnin' Down the Mountain for Final Weekend: NOLA Theatre Review


by Jonas Griffin

New Noise theatre ensemble presents Runnin’ Down The Mountain, an original collaborative work billed as an Appalachian sound play. Directed by company member, Joanna Russo, this is the first production to be held at Dryades Theatre on burgeoning Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard thanks to proprietor Claudia Baumgarten (JeanThe Shaker Chair).

 

 

Brother and sister duo, Margaret (Lisa Shattuck) and Everett Riddle (Philip Rogers Cramer) are orphans living in an isolated cabin in the mountains. They bicker and trudge through their routine of meals and chores. Margaret is the chicken manager yet dreams of university. Each of them struggles individually and secretly with the death of their mother and the absence of their truck-driving father. While Margaret leaves countless unreturned messages for her father, Everett devises a makeshift setup of coke bottles, chairs and other objects on which to string a fragment of audio tape so that he can listen to the voice of his mother. He has one half of a broken cassette and his sister keeps the other half. Their dynamic is harsh yet tender. In one delightful scene, they pickle eggs together as they did with their mother. But the home is uneasy with the siblings growing astray, grief and nostalgia hanging heavy. The only way out is by running down the mountain.

 

Augmenting this central duo is a live band (Sean LaRocca and Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) of guitar, fiddle, drum, spoons and vocals. The band also provides sound effects ranging from a chicken to ambient noise. The soundscape doesn’t stop here: Shattuck and Cramer often engage in tense sound effect rhythm fits. For example, at the dinner table, one will make a beat with objects on hand (fork, plate) while the other makes a complementary beat with jars, hands, etc. They’re fighting with domestic percussion. The two also open the show as country stars singing of a slow train a’commin’. These personas may lead you to believe you’re in for a musical with Annie Oakley and Johnny Cash, but this effect is soon dropped as the drama takes hold.

 

The production succeeds by employing a structure of repeating a pattern with variations until it explodes. Everett sets up his audio equipment several times, like a ritual, each occasion more elaborate and tense than the last because he gets closer to hearing his mother sing. Margaret gets closer and closer to flying the coup as her dreams ferment. The climax is a brilliant showing of flexible set design, giving new meaning to a house that cannot stand.

 

By using the obsolete cassette on whose tape the siblings’ memories are burned, Runnin’ Down The Mountain is able to explore how technology is used to record memory in a tangible and moving way. The tape stretches across the house, and it binds Everett like rope.

 

Runnin' Down the Mountain plays Fri.-Sun at Dryades Theatre (1232 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.). Tickets available here.

 

 




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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

Published Daily