If you’re wondering what the Broken Planetarium’s original musical Live! Profits! Live! has to offer, you might want to ask a more accurate question: What doesn’t it have to offer?
Together, playwright-actor-composer Laura Christina Dunn and her fellow cast members prove there’s no need for a fancy theater, extravagant props, or designer costumes. When you possess their sheer talent and passion, any production can be a masterpiece.
Based on the myth of the ancient Greek prophet Cassandra, Live! Profits! Live! uses COVID-19 to spark an overdue conversation about climate change and domestic violence. The play invites us to consider at least one upside to the pandemic (that it drew collective attention to the impact humans have on their environment), while also acknowledging that the oft-used phrase “safer at home” was not a reality for those locked in quarantine with their abusers.
Live! Prophets! Live! (directed by Corinne Gaucher) stars Hannah Edelson as a modern Cassandra who awakens to find herself in an underworld of sorts, referred to as End of the Roadhouse. She has been studying the mass disappearance of tree frogs in Florida, but drowned while collecting data on sinking land.
Cassandra finds herself in the company of real-life icons like Joan of Arc (Leina Naversen), Octavia Butler (Natasha Kotey) and Li Qingzhao (Emma Chang)—all women who were disbelieved, dismissed and punished for battling the status quo. There is also the narrator of the play, Hildegard von Bingen (Mikki Jordan), who wears the clothes of a nun, but transcends the established definitions of words like “wholesome,” “holy” and “pure.”
Throughout Live! Prophets! Live!, Cassandra contemplates whether she should depart End of the Roadhouse or remain, a decision that isn’t made until each character shares her own story through song. Their experiences raise grave questions—how do we heal the planet? How do we heal ourselves?—but the play is consistently fun and engaging.
Live! Prophets! Live! tackles the tough with acting, singing, comedy, choreographed group dances and live musical instruments—including guitar, keyboard and banjo (the music is by Dunn, Trinh Youngman, Natasha Kotey, Red Yarn, Emilie Landmann, Ali Ippolito, Kristin Gordon George, Julia Babcock, Monica Metzler and Leina Naversen).
As a result, watching the performance feels akin to attending an intimate cabaret. Its campiness is a joy to behold, but there’s a point to the juxtaposition of playful delivery and weighty themes: to remind us that we can care for our planet and its people while still enjoying our lives (Cassandra points out that “if we can shatter the world, just think of how we can shape it”).
As Cassandra struggles to decide whether to return, she recalls a time when her mother “stopped trying for life to get better.” Perhaps that’s why Live! Prophets! Live! suggests that saving the world might require us to master and temper ourselves—just as Dunn (who is the Broken Planetarium’s artistic director) uses wit and music to temper the looming threats of abuse and an environmental apocalypse.
Live! Prophets! Live! ultimately asks us to recognize that people will always need each other—and that everything is connected in some way. We’re asked to “look at the shadows we pretend not to see,” while staying both strong and tender, an invitation for further thought amid wondrous entertainment.
SEE IT: Live! Prophets! Live! plays at Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St., 971-808-3331, brokenplanetarium.org. 2 pm Thursday and Sunday, 7 pm Friday-Saturday, through Aug. 14. Tickets $15-$25 sliding scale, Arts for All accepted at the door.