Squonk is a mixed bag

The shows put on by Squonk Opera are not easily defined.

Fantasy-based performance art? Multimedia mish-mosh? A New Agey twist on traditional theater? Surrealistic comedy?

Squonk Opera takes a risk each time it takes the stage. And, quite frankly, the jury is still out on the show it served up Tuesday night at the Lied Center.

It's fair to say that "Bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk" had its summits and its valleys.

First, the good stuff: The six-member cast proved to be excellent musicians on a variety of instruments, from standup bass to piano to drums to flute to a funky wind synthesizer. The original music ranged from whimsical tunes to percussive drumming to haunting melodies.

The use of shadow puppets and costumes that created segmented faces and three-headed monsters were innovative and comical. Props that resembled a Neptune-adorned underwater chamber and a giant bicycle resembling a horse were intriguing.

Now, the bad stuff: At the end of the hour-and-15-minute performance, the cast still had not made an emotional connection to the audience. Attempts were made to be interactive, but its effects were minimal and momentary.

The singer's voice was liltingly beautiful, following the style made famous by such singers as Sinead O'Connor and Tori Amos. But only a handful of her words were intelligible. The program acknowledged that flaw and supplied the lyrics, which, of course, were difficult to read in the dark.

The show was billed as a family event, but some of the images were not very child-friendly. Most disturbing were the creepy handling of a knife, severed heads displayed on platters and fluid gushing from the breasts of a sculptured torso.

Squonk Opera: avant garde or self-indulgence? Maybe both.

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