Monday, September 25th, 2017

Molded by the Flow: Multiple USM departments present original work

Posted on April 22, 2017 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By: Matthew Craig, Arts & Culture Editor

On Friday, April 21, Molded by the Flow opened on the Gorham campus. “A poetic, visual and musical narrative inspired by Southern Maine’s rich natural and human history,” the performance is a collaborative effort between the art, music and theatre departments at USM. It also also the result of work by internationally recognized artists Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert.

This is another work in USM’s 2016-2017 season that was a bit of a challenge for all those involved. Under Milkwood, Dylan Thomas’s radio drama, is a collection of silly stories and dreams. This piece is very difficult to translate to stage, and, while the cast did a fine job of acting and designing a set, the show was visually lacking. The fact that this is intended to be experienced passively, that is to say, on a radio in the car or wherever, a stage production needs to be visually stimulating and lacked some of the artistic direction present in Molded by the Flow.

The biggest common element between the two is the lack of a traditional story. Molded by the Flow makes no attempt to be a narrative play such as The Language Archive or a musical production like The Merry Wives of Windsor. It is a unique artistic performance. There are times during the performance that are truly brilliant. The use of projection throughout is very well done. The set is very well-designed, with some very interesting use of large wooden wedges. The wedges, surprisingly, are one of the coolest things about the show. One side of each has a blackboard surface, which members of the cast draw on at times. This is part of one of the greatest strengths of this production.

Molded by the Flow still needs work. The music is lacking, although I cannot say exactly why. At times, it seemed like the musicians stumbled, and at other times it seemed as though it was composed in such a way that was derivative or simply boring. For sure, there were pieces of music within that were not as good as they tried to make it be. Given that every aspect of this production is original, it cannot be expected to pull off everything flawlessly. However, sometimes it can be more effective to have fewer elements but do them better.

Aside from the music needing to be looked at more critically, this show is exciting and innovative. The use of the spotlight is not good, however. There is a point at which a spotlight is used to simulate a lighthouse, and the light shines directly in the faces of the audience in the first row. This is disorienting and distracting. 

Artistically, Molded by the Flow is quite an achievement. The combination of sounds, motion and color is expertly executed. It is truly mesmerizing at times. The use of small anecdotes and stories from Maine life are spot-on, and it truly evokes the essence of Maine life. It’s not represented the way it is in the media and many other, more popular works based on or in Maine. It highlights the most interesting things about living in Maine, many of which people tend to take for granted. Molded by the Flow offers a fresh, poetic and artistic look at Maine life and history.