Review by Brittany Crowell

House of Telescopes, by Kairos Looney and produced by Pipeline Theatre Company at ART NY Theater begins with a haunting song.  Fable, a trans woman, has left her family home in Colorado and traveled to Minneapolis, where she has found solace in a large house with a warm community of folks who are similarly seeking self-discovery and actualization outside of the constraints of their history.  As the play with music opens, Fable (played with depth and warmth by Joyah Dominique) is calling out to her ancestors, her “roots,” in whom she is searching for answers as to who she is and what history she holds within her.  She is tearing down the research that she’s mapped along the walls of her room in frustration as her search doesn’t seem to be giving her the answers that she desires.

These ancestors (ie. “Cartographers”) follow Fable and others throughout the performance, sometimes acting invisibly, sometimes unbeknownst to their subject: protecting them, observing them, guiding them, haunting them.  Played by the delightful ensemble  of Kris Carrasco, Lisa Stephen Friday, Rai Gonzalez; Ren King, and Jen Anaya with great gravity, the cartographers wear symbolic white costumes that hint at identities and time periods and their presence on stage is often accompanied by a beautiful and magical video rendering that sweeps and flows in a rainbow of colors across the walls at each edge of the stage.  These sprites of place also transition us between Minneapolis and Colorado and set the stage for each scene via magically choreographed set changes.

The set, by Melpomene Katakalos, toes the line between the practical and the magical.  Hardwood floors sweep up at curved edges onto walls sprinkled with purple and peppered with doors, some of which serve as entry and others as portals into new spaces, housing nooks with furniture pieces that build out the kitchens or dining rooms of the family home.  

The story of the piece centers on identity, specifically the journey to find one’s identity both independently and within family and community.  However, the trans characters in the piece are not the only to seek deeper self-realization; back in Colorado, Fable’s mother is working through her own sense of who she is and how that changes (and expands) as she learns to accept her trans daughter, poly-amorous daughter, and her son as he discovers who he love and searches for his path beyond high school graduation.

House of Telescopes features a strong ensemble embodying a wonderful mosaic of identity, journey, discovery, and knowledge (casting by Bass/Valle).  Standout performances came from the nervous yet strong Sherman (played charmingly by LA Head) who is searching for and learning to inhabit their new name and Saved Things, a dubious demon, enacted by the playful and mischievous André Jordan and designed by puppeteer Emmanuel Elpenord.  

While the community surrounding Fable & Sherman is strong, we only get to see snippets of them.  The piece focuses on Fable and touches heavily on Sherman’s journey, however, while the ensemble intrigue and delight, the piece can’t possibly begin to deepen its exploration of them and struggles to hold the journeys of its two main counterparts while also holding space for the history of all of its cast of characters.

That being said, House of Telescopes is a beautiful piece, wonderfully designed and fabulously performed and crafted.  Filled to the brim with questions and experiences around trans identity, it is universal in its message of acceptance, love, and embracing every piece of yourself to truly find the beautiful and unique you.

 

HOUSE OF TELESCOPES –  by Kairos Looney; original music by Aya Aziz; directed by Lyam B. Gabel

FEATURING: Jen Anaya, Kris Carrasco, Daxx, Joyah Dominique, Francesca Fernandez, Lisa Stephen Friday, Abdu Garmazi, Rai González, Noa Graham, LA Head, André Jordan, Ren King, Al Piper, Joshua David Robinson, Trinity G. Ross, Jeorge Bennett Watson, Gwynne Wood, Sinclair William.

Sets by Melpomene Katakalos; lighting by Andre Segar; costumes by Temídayo Amay;  Media design by Joseph Amodei; sound design by Travis Joseph Wright; puppet design by Emmanuel Elpenord; props design by Travis Martinez; casting by Bass/Valle; production stage manager, Kyra Bowie; assistant director, Keleen Moriarty; intimacy direction by Kimi Handa Brown.  Produced by Pipeline Theatre Company at ART NY (502 W 53rd Street).  https://pipelinetheatre.org/house_of_telescopes