Last of My Species Review - Redmoon's Spectacle '09

Do you know the Redmoon Theater’s work?  Let’s start with their mission,

“to transform streets, stages, and architectural landmarks into places of public celebration…pulling with conviction from contemporary art forms and ancient theatrical forms. Redmoon has created a performance style that is equal parts pageantry, gadgetry, acrobatics, and ephemera.”

That may help you understand what I  am up against here.

Redmoon is anything but predictable.  When we arrived at the Belmont Harbor venue for Last of My Species, we were exhorted to “ Be Bombastic” and there, on the lawn was a sofa designated for the Bombastic Winner.  The crowd was more than willing to enter into the merriment and it seemed that being bombastic was fine with multi-generational audience. And that, maybe they knew Redmoon's lunatique brand of perfoamnce art.

EVERYONE was there.  At 7:00 pm, when the performance was to begin, we were asked to squeeze together a bit to make room for the overflow crowd. Tips for coping with Redmoon’s enormous popularity are at the end of this article.

With Redmoon, it’s very difficult to separate fact from fiction, so I’m not even going to try. Here’s the way Redmoon tells it:

Redmoon collaborates with Norwegian music sensation Laarna Cortaan in 2009's outdoor spectacle production, Spectacle '09: Last of My Species The Fearless Songs of Laarna Cortaan.

Some of Laarna's characters

Part pop concert, part theatrical event, Last of My Species will feature Laarna Cortaan's wild dance music, performed against the backdrop of mechanical objects, a two-dimensional orchestra and large scale sets built by Redmoon artists and engineers. With Redmoon's larger than life transforming objects including the weather machine, impossibly tall ladder vehicle and Vegas Cart, this first ever Redmoon concert event will astound audiences with invention and humor.”

This is SPECTACLE '09. And I don’t want to tell you too much about the show because what we saw was so ingenious, fascinating and good-natured, I sincerely hope you’ll go, see it and tell me what you think.  Just send your opinions to [email protected] and we can compare notes.

The show opens with a giggling Laarna Cortaan who clearly is delighted to be with us in Chicago for her “Shine Your Light on Me Project.”

Laarna in her glory

Laarna’s two-dimensional orchestra (is it the oversized hands and feet that make it two-dimensional?) plays strange music and twirls the instruments in synchronized motion ala Busby Berkeley. Allegedly this is a dramatization of the ancient Sami folk tradition in which the bride is married to a muse and dies an ecstatic death.  Ripples of laughter spread through the audience--from insiders had been to Redmoon before.  We were catching on…

The two-dimensional orchestra

The orchestra was followed by monkeys and “dancers.”

There's a band on top of this contraption propelled by the monkey

They, of course, were followed by the Cymbal (Symbol?) Hat Army.

Laarna's Cymbal Hat Army. Doesn't everyone have one?

Here the journey begins and my storytelling ends. Telling you more would ruin your experience.  But I will show you one more picture as a preview of coming attractions:

Incredible Aerial Feats

Our venue was the gorgeous Belmont Harbor Park overlooking our majestic lake.  On top of that, there was a shimmering full moon (do you think that was a coincidence? ) and glorious weather. What a fabulous end-of-summer place to be!  

The mad geniuses behind this mesmerizing production include:
Creators and Directors: Jim Lasko, Frank Maugeri and Vanessa Stalling
Designers: Jim Lasko, Frank Maugeri and Joey Ruigrok van der Werven
Music By: Laarna Cortaan, Misha Fiksel, Shu Shubat and Oliver Seay
Featuring: Laarna Cortaan, Tony Hernandez, Rani Waterman, Shu Shubat, Alex Balestrieri, The Momentary Opera and The Symbol Hat ensemble
Lighting By: Nick Matonich

Spectacle '09 marks the culmination of a summer series of free guerilla-style public performances created by Redmoon and performed in various locations throughout the City of Chicago. These guerilla spectacle interventions provided the public with entertainment from Redmoon's Momentary Opera who will be a central component in Last of My Species.

The Finale with the Standing Ovation

Spectacle '09: Last of My Species runs September 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12 & 13 at 7 p.m. at Belmont Harbor. The performance is 75 minutes without intermission.

Tickets are $15 adults, $10 for children 10 and under.  Tickets can be purchased at or 312-850-8440 ext. 111.  

Sept. 10 will be a special benefit performance.  A limited number of tickets will be sold for this benefit event at $150.  A champagne and cheesecake reception will be followed by an intimate performance of Spectacle '09.  Call Emily Reusswig at 312-850-8440 ext. 111 for more details.

Parking is limited.  We recommend traveling by bike or public transit. We took the #77 bus from the Belmont “L” station and it dropped us off just across from Belmont Harbor.  Redmoon has done an excellent job of signage to get you to the right spot. We suggest you come early and bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful setting.  Although there are bleachers, we brought our own chairs and were able to sit a little closer to the stage.  The Chicago Park District provided plenty of portable toilets.

The spectacle is presented by Redmoon by special arrangement with the Chicago Park District.


Sean Williams for Redmoon
Herb Simms for Chicago Splash

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