Don’t You Know the World Is Water? … Jasper in Deadland

the programme/playbill of Jasper in Deadland at West End Theatre in 86th Street.

the programme/playbill of Jasper in Deadland at West End Theatre in 86th Street.

If you know me a little, you know that I’m always all in for original (musical) theatre and smaller scale productions. Because smaller productions mean a smaller buget and that sometimes (can) mean(s) more creativity regarding the creativity of the production.

(Does this even make sense?)

I was excited to get to see Jasper in Deadland during its Off Broadway run which ended April 13th. (as you can read in the picture…) Parly because I love the recording of Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm and partly because of the reason I stated right in the beginning.

Beforehand I read basically everyone’s rave reviews on that show, and I’ve listened to Living Dead a couple of times. Anyway, I wasn’t prepared for this energetic kick this show would have. I wasn’t prepared of the beauty of the song Stroke by Stroke and of water, on stage, shown by blue fabric (although I am sure I’ve seen that before – but this one was the most artistic and three-dimensional one…) – and in a way I wasn’t prepared to be taken in by that sweet, adolescent love-friendship story.

I had seen The Bridges of Madison County only two days before and frequent readers of this blog know how much I loved Bridges, but in a way rather different from the way Bridges does most of the music of Jasper in Deadland finds its way directly into your body while you are listening. As I mentioned in my Music Monday post on the song Stroke by Stroke is really is like swimming – or for me: like running. Or basically like any kind of sport you have to push yourself to put one foot/arm/hand in front of the other. (which brings me to a whole new song and musical…) – anyway, I’m stopping the random rambling here and now.

So, for those of you who don’t know: Jasper in Deadland is a kind of Orpheus and Eurydice story. Girl/Woman dies, best friend/husband follow her into Hades to bring her back. On his way to find Agnes, his best friend, Jasper has to face a number of riddles and dangers until he eventually finds her, makes up his mind regarding some important questions and brings her back up to the living world. Orpheus fails because he doesn’t really trust Eurydice or maybe himself, but still – he turns and only sees her going back down to Hades. However Jasper succeeds and eventually brings her back up with him right after finding out that he indeed loves her. This sounds so cheesy and does not do the show justice.

During the show the two main characters – Jasper and Agnes/Gretchen – are given the opportunity to discover themselves. They are in this adolescent ‘I kinda know who I am, but I’m not sure’-age and Agnes/Gretchen has the very literal opportunity to learn (again) who she is, because apparently being dead and drinking water in deadland makes to lose your memory, while Jasper struggles in his living life (as we learn in the first song of the show) and then comes into this new Deadland-environment, where he is the ‘living boy in Deadland’, kind of a superstar, and needs to find his position and his motivation for his actions down there as well.
In a way Jasper in Deadland can be seen as a very clever high school allegorie with songs and without a high school, but with a (normally) somewhat more permanent destination.

In my opinion this is the probably the big strength of the show – it opens up a very closed world, the world of the dead with normally no oportunity of escape.
Besides that it offers a lot of somewhat comedy elements and an amazing three headed dog (I have a very soft spot for puppets of any kind – so basically I was sold when the dog “entered”), but all of that only seems to provide a home for this coming of age story and realizing who matters in life.

And as far as I can remember I cried.



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