Holcombe Waller “Wayfinders” Review – Sci-Fi Flavored Musical Expressionism


This is not a classic musical with book and narrative.  Nor is it a straight compilation of beautiful folk music enhanced by French Horn, flute, viola, violin, keyboard and bass--- though there certainly is much sweet and sumptuous sound to savor. 



With technology as both his muse and handmaiden of video imaging creating a dynamic set, Holcombe Waller and his team of pedigreed musicians and visual artists (Ben Landsverk, Ellen McSweeney, Elise Blatchford, Leander Star, Alexandra Deahl) have created a future dystopian world where body and mind have tenuous links. 



Leave any desire for exposition and literal storytelling at the door and you will find “Wayfinders” to be an intriguing 50-minute immersion of your senses in a new world that unfolds before you both musically and visually. 



This is an abstract expression that started with the music during an MCA-sponsored workshop to bring it into being.  In fact, Waller in a post-performance discussion commented that it didn’t matter if you, the audience, knew what was going on at a particular point, but rather the story line was more so the performers knew what they had to do next. 



In this same discussion violinist and vocalist Ellen McSweeney gave voice to how much this MCA-sponsored workshop had expanded each artist’s horizons and opened new directions for their future work.  This same sentiment had been shared by eighth blackbird musicians about the impact their MCA-sponsored workshop had on each of them as performers.  These comments suggest that the MCA workshop process may naturally give us performer-centric work-in-progress peeks rather than audience-centric finished works you will find in abundance on Chicago’s many other stages.  



“Wayfinders” may be the virgin vehicle of a new genre—sci-fi inspired musical expressionism.   Whatever you may want to call it—you’ll have to agree that it is “new”. 



If you revel in watching creative juices reach for new forms of expression, keep your eye out for future MCA-workshopped performances.  The Museum of Contemporary Art Stage programming aims to always bring performances that break new ground.  For a full schedule of this season’s performances visit the MCA Stage web pages and for tickets call  the MCA Box Office at 312 397 4010.


Museum of Contemporary Art

220 East Chicago Avenue





Photos: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, unless otherwise indicated





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