Universes at USM's Hannaford Hall, April 8

Music seen
By SONYA TOMLINSON  |  April 13, 2011

Excerpts of several original plays, Live from the Edge, brought out the varied traits of Bronx-based performance group Universes. A family affair (the lone woman in the four-person group is sister to one member and wife to another), they exhibited elements of a slam poetry competition, a step show, a comedy, a musical, and a play all rolled into one remarkable evening.

After a pre-curtain lecture (for which Portland Ovations hired me), the mid-30s to mid-40s aged group took the audience through varied places (New York streets, a nightclub, a church, a New Orleans barbershop) with a series of characters, song and dance. Pulling no punches topically, Universes took on "tragedy monger" bleeding-heart liberals, absurd prejudices, and drug addiction (among other social issues) with an approach that is both humorous and intelligent and completely lacking in self-righteousness.

Musically, they wove traditional blues hymns, Annie Lennox lyrics, and the familiar alphabet melody with snapping, stomping, beat-boxing, dance, vocal harmonies, and wordplay — often simultaneously. Despite vocal overlaps, the chaos is organized, clearly honed in 15 years of performing, and most evident when all four varying vocal parts stop on a dime.

Their confidence shows in their playfulness, too, as when one vocalist, Sap, took a moment to call out a group of latecomers — leaving everyone (including the latecomers) in hysterics. They've mastered the art interactivity without discomfort. By the end, it felt less like a performance than a really powerful discussion with a group of friends — and that there is somehow a resolution to all that was stirred up in the two hours you shared.

  Topics: New England Music News , Theater, Theatre, Annie Lennox,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SONYA TOMLINSON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   UNIVERSES AT USM'S HANNAFORD HALL, APRIL 8  |  April 13, 2011
    Excerpts of several original plays, Live from the Edge , brought out the varied traits of Bronx-based performance group Universes.
  •   BROADWAY AT GOOD THEATER AT THE ST. LAWRENCE, DECEMBER 5  |  December 08, 2010
    The overwhelming scent of assorted perfumes and folks in their Sunday best filled the St. Lawrence for Good Theater's annual production of "Broadway at Good Theater."
  •   EDUCATED ADVOCATES  |  March 17, 2010
    At the Big Easy, February 16
  •   FRESH BEDROCK  |  March 08, 2010
    Dessa Darling could never be limited to one area of interest to devote her passions — an author, lyricist, singer, teacher, philosophy-degree holder and lover of linguistics who cuts off and donates her hair to children in need every time she releases something big.
  •   TWO: AN ORIGINAL MUSIC SERIES  |  February 10, 2010
    Port City Music Hall's Two Series two-dollar cover, two-dollar drafts from 8 to 11 pm.

 See all articles by: SONYA TOMLINSON