Review: In ‘Return the Moon,’ Theater Between Phases

A quirk of astronomy: The phases of the moon seem the similar regardless of the place you stand on Earth. If it’s gibbous in Greenland, it’s gibbous in Argentina; a crescent is a crescent from New Zealand to Uzbekistan. As I write this, a brand new moon approaches, and throughout the world stars shine brighter now. Over the previous yr and a half, there have been fewer alternatives to look at the similar factor at the similar time in particular person, so what a miracle that if any of us had been to face outdoors, we would, for a second, see the similar vivid factor.

“Return the Moon,” an immersive on-line efficiency from Third Rail Projects, additionally tries to supply neighborhood in the midst of isolation. Though insubstantial — it’s a dandelion of a present — the piece speaks to this liminal second that appears as if it would quickly disappear as theaters reopen. It explores how we maintain ourselves, and each other, when the energy goes out.

A fairy story, an act of collective creation and, as Third Rail describes it, “an offering, for dark nights,” “Return the Moon” begins in the most mundane place possible: a Zoom ready room. After a brisk introduction, viewers are sorted into 4 breakout rooms. Mine was led, warmly and nimbly, by Tara O’Con. We adjusted our lighting, and had been informed to look out any accessible window — home windows as far-off from me as Baltimore and Toronto — and kind what we might see into the chat. Then, with our cameras off and our names elided, we had been requested to sort in our fears and needs.

“What we are doing tonight is attempting to make something together,” O’Con mentioned, “to share something together.”

Then comes the story, a skinny allegory about what occurs to a village when the moon disappears. What’s richer is a subsequent dance, introduced in 4 separate home windows to a soundtrack of tinkling piano. Because a laptop computer digicam works higher in close-up, these are dances for fingers, palms, heads, an eyeball, a cup. The night concludes with blessings and a tribute, primarily based on these earlier chat responses; on the evening I attended, we collectively gave thanks for, amongst different issues, dolls, homosexual bars, bus terminals at evening and being invited to play Street Fighter 2.

Because it is a beneficiant piece, the efficiency doesn’t fairly finish there. Online, an audio file arrives just a few days later. And offline, a slim envelope lands in your mailbox, with a present inside and directions for tips on how to make your personal providing.

The creators — O’Con, together with Alberto Denis, Kristin Dwyer, Joshua Gonzales, Sean Hagerty, Justin Lynch, Zach Morris, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus and Edward Rice — appear to have realized from earlier on-line experiments. The piece is brief, not far more than an hour, and whereas it is dependent upon sufficient viewers participation to maintain viewers engaged, that participation is snug, with anonymity assured. And who doesn’t love a present in the mail? Yet whereas “Return the Moon” is purpose-built for a distant viewers on Zoom, it additionally has the feeling of a place-holder: a approach of gathering aside till we are able to extra safely collect collectively.

Third Rail’s long-running, immersive “Then She Fell” was an early pandemic casualty. “Return the Moon” is in each approach a slighter piece, however it’s a mild one, made with kindness and care. And it gives the helpful reminder, vital as theaters wrestle to regroup and reopen, that even a sliver of moon can forged a light-weight.

Return the Moon
Through Sept. 30; thirdrailprojects.com. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes.