Review: "Magdalena" at TheatreLab NYC

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Max Berry

  • Contributing New York Critic

Every now and then in one’s pursuit of theatre, one comes across something that surpasses  a “good show” and becomes a theatrical experience. I had the pleasure of coming across such a gem earlier this weekend when I went to see TheatreLab’s production of Magdalena, written and performed by Gabri Christa. 

Magdalena tells the story of Christa’s mother and her struggle with dementia through the lense of dance, photos, projections, and Christa’s honest and human story telling. Despite the difficult subject matter, this is not a story of mourning, rather a celebration of the incredible woman that her mother was and the impact that she had on Christa and her family.  The intimate white box space gave conflicting feelings of comfort and vulnerability that allowed each happy memory and each sad moment to hit you in a place that you weren’t aware you were guarding, leaving you wanting to call everyone you know and tell them you loved them by the end of the show.

And that, at its core, is what Magdalena is about: Love. The love that Christa’s grandmother had for her daughter, the love that Magdalena and her husband shared, the love that Magadalena gave Christa, and the love that Christa has for her mother, a love that she graciously shares with the audience, who, in turn, share that love with someone else. I know I called my grandmother a day after seeing the show to make sure that she knew I loved her.

Another stand out aspect of this show was the simplicity in the lighting design by Guy De Lancey. With very little flash or flare De Lancey was able to capture the tone and intimacy of the show with simply string lights on the ground, a single spotlight, and a hanging lamplight (Which led to one of the coolest lighting effects in a piece of choreography that I have seen in a long time). Many times these simple lights gave an almost campfire story feel that just made you want to lean in and listen even more.

The best kind of art is that done with great passion and you can tell that everyone involved in

Magdalena is passionate about telling this story. From Christa’s initial inspiration to director Erwin Maas taking that inspiration and brilliantly bringing it to life, to De Lancey and his beautiful design choices, everyone worked with passion. And isn’t passionate theatre the best kind of theatre?

 

Magdalena performs September 12-22 at TheatreLab in NYC.