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“AIRWAVES” completes “THE ELEMENTS CYCLE,” at Cleveland Public Theatre

“AIR-WAVES” completes “THE ELEMENTS CYCLE,” at Cleveland Public Theatre

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)

Cleveland Public Theatre’s “THE ELEMENTS CYCLE” examines the value of water, earth and air to humans.  It is an existential series which asks such questions as “is this the best way to live?,” “what is the purpose of existence?,” and attempts to inspire “new ways to think about and incite conversation about the elements.”

The three-part series uses mythology, reality, and creation to examine the earth, its inhabitants, human cruelty, insensitivity, willful ignorance, greed, desire, short human shelf life, and love.

The cycle, which is being completed with CPT’s production of “AIR-WAVES,” uses the devised theatre format, sometimes referred to as magical-realism, rather the usual theatrical pattern of a playwright penning a script, the script being tested through readings and minimally staged productions, a director formatting an understanding of the written piece, and then working with actors and technicians to bring the writer’s words and ideas to life.

Devised theater, instead, encourages collaborative creation, which may take the form of spoken dialogue, poetry, mime, music, dance, and electronic illusion as conceived by director(s), writers and performers.  The process involves selecting a theme and then extracting ideas from that central axis.

This is not improvisatory theatre.  There is a script, with suggestions for actor ad libs during production, so that audience experiences from night to night are fairly parallel.  But, it is also not the traditional theatre of Shakespeare, Wilde or Williams.  It is often abstract, doesn’t follow the well-made format of beginning (exposition), middle (story development), and conclusion (dénouement).  That lack of traditional format may be off-putting to some, while exciting to others.

The first of the series, “WATER WAYS (Part One of the Elements Cycle)” examined the existence and power of water and humans deep connection to water.

The second offering, “EARTH PLAYS (Part Two of the Elements Cycle)” provoked the viewers to reconsider their relationship to the very ground they walk on, and remember the beauty and joy of our environment.

The third offering, which is the most clearly story-driven of the trio, invites the viewer into the lives of George, Janette and Kim.  George and Janette, brother and sister, are parted when Janette, an asthmatic,  dies.  George has deep regrets and wishes to be reunited.  He is confronted by Kim, an entrepreneur who is behind a city-wide initiative to buy the air over people’s houses in order to then resell the sparse commodity.  She offers him the opportunity to have three wishes granted in return for selling his air rights.  The rest of the story flows from his wishes.

Audience members experience the exposition sitting at tables.  They interact with cast members who lead discussions about what is important, and what single act of history they would most change if they had the ability to do so.  These discussions lead the participants to literally be led through the stairways, halls, and stage areas of  CPT to see and hear various story-revealing vignettes.

Though the cast is universally effective, special recognition goes to Faye Hargate as the dynamic, hard selling Kim, Cassie Neumann, as Jeanette, the character most personally affected by the quality of the air which surrounds her, and Adam Seeholzer as the conflicted George.

Those who have walking issues, are in wheel chairs or use walkers, be aware that this production is not handicapped-friendly.

Hearing can be problematic as CPT’s main performance space has a high ceiling and hard walls, which causes echoes and dead spots.

Capsule judgement: Of the three pieces in the “ELEMENTS CYCLE,” “AIR-WAVES” is the most message- clear.  The CPT directors have seemingly come to terms with the need to add clarity of purpose to the devised theatre process.  Though not as abstract as the two previous offerings, those wanting a traditional story line of clear beginning, middle, and end will still be somewhat frustrated.   

“AIR-WAVES (PART THREE OF THE ELEMENTS CYCLE)” continues at Cleveland Public Theatre through February 15.  For tickets go to: 216-631-2727 or go to

CPT’s next show is the world premiere of TITUS A GRAND AND GORY ROCK-MUSICAL.  Shakespeare’s bloodiest, most horrifying script, gets a total makeover as a rock musical with limbs torn off, tongues cut out and lots of singing!  Performed from March 6 to 22.