Great cheese is definitely not confined to only the movies. This weekend I experienced a darkly themed, but awesome play at the Historic Everett Theater in Everett, WA. It is Aeterno Elementum: A Heavy Metal Opera presented by Ara'Kus Productions. It's a live band performance cloaked within an over the top theatrical production with a huge ensemble cast, including a fire eating Demoness.
The premise is one we've heard before, but still has an original flair. A well-intentioned man of the cloth, in his desire to rid the world of all sin, ultimately helps darker forces achieve their goal of ridding the world of pesky humanity. After a tragedy makes him question his god, he falls prey to a seductive fire eating Demoness, and makes a pact with her.
Through a series of monologues and intensely choreographed action scenes, we are introduced to four others who fell under the Demoness' spell. Each one represents an element, and the surrender of each to the Demoness increases her power, and causes more destruction to rain upon humanity.
The story is solid, that much is for certain. It also doesn't drag, or even get bogged down by its grandiose theme of how imposing one's will and judgment on the world, no matter how veiled in good intentions, can only lead to misery for all. The story flows with limited dialogue, heavy music to frame each scene, and lots of action.
The play also remembers to use humor to break up the tension. The character of the Imp, who works for the Demoness, is hysterical. Just when things could get too melodramatic, the Imp enters, sometimes dancing, sometimes crawling, but always with an impish grin of delight. Out of all of the cast, the Imp steals the show each time he appears. And during the twenty minute intermission, the Imp entertained the audience by coming out for photo ops, and to make a big show of trying to capture the souls of the handful of young kids in attendance.
The story of the play is intense, and it took me the first couple of acts to get into the flow of things. But once you do, the performance immerses you. The two hour performance truly flies by, and you are tempted to cheer and yell at several points. The actors all clearly enjoy their roles, and each do them justice, no matter how small. They embrace the cheese factor of this over-the-top morality tale.
The main character of the priest is played very well. He makes you sympathetic for his plight without any crutches to force you to feel one way or the other. Playing against the fire eating Demoness, it's a great balance. Even though the Demoness has a non-speaking role, her thoughts are clear in each scene. The actress who plays her does a great job at slipping into the background just enough to let the story play out, but still be noticed as the controlling hand of her latest conquest.
However, after all is said and done, it is the stage production of Aeterno Elementum that makes this worth the drive, time, and ticket price to see. The costumes are detailed, with lots of leather, studs, and demon horns. The Demoness is sultry without being profane, and her headdress is incredible! The clever use of all the characters to move items, including “dead bodies”, around the stage is not intrusive, and before you realize it you've gone from the inside of a church, to a courtyard, to a forest scene. It's minimalism used to its best. The characters also emerge from all areas of the theater, so you are immersed in the experience even more.
If you're not a fan of heavy metal, or any kind of heavy music, this probably won't make you one. But the music adds to the story so well, if you took it out, or even toned it down, the experience would not be as good. If you think you're not a fan of live theater, I do, however, think this production could change your mind. C'mon, you have people twirling fire, fight scenes including swords, punching, jumping, and twirling, and an imp to make you laugh just when you need it the most! Be sure to check out www.HeavyMetalOpera.com for much better pictures to get a hint of what you'll see.
This is a once a year production, and this year I'm told is even better than last year's was. I can only imagine the improvements they'll make to the stage setting, costumes, and story next year. I can already tell you I'll be more than willing to make the long drive to find out.
If you are in the Western Washington area, you have one more weekend this year to come see Aeterno Elementum: A Heavy Metal Opera. (Two shows remain: Nov 22nd and Nov 23rd 2013) I highly encourage folks to attend, both because it is an awesome live performance, but to encourage them to continue doing this for next year. Live theater can always use more support, especially when it is this good!
You can purchase tickets to the door the night of the show, or in advance from Brown Paper Tickets. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/372269