The opening scene of Axis Theatre’s RIP! A Winkle in Time is simply magical: a high stakes combination of acrobatics and visuals. Unfortunately, that magic is short-lived.
From the same company that brought us the critically acclaimed and long-running Number 14, expectations were high walking into the Waterfront Theater last night. That RIP! A Winkle in Time would also be the final legacy from the company’s outgoing Artistic Director, those expectations were even greater.
Inspired by Washington Irving’s famous short story Rip Van Winkle, in the Axis Theatre version, Randall Irving Parson (Rip) becomes frozen in the tundra for 100 years and upon waking is immediately viewed as a live version of Ötzi the Iceman, the preserved mummy discovered in Italy in 1991. Finding out the small town in which he lived was now named after him, Rip meets his great great grandson, who is in the throes of appearing in a movie about the history of the area.
From this point the plot gets as confusing as the styles used in telling its story. Along with an attempt to exploit Rip’s thaw to help put the town back on the map, there is also a sub-plot that sees an evil oil company looking to exploit his claim for its black gold. Along the way Rip must also come to terms with not having been able to see his children grow up and some of the technological advances during his big sleep. Not surprisingly much comic fodder is made of the ubiquitous cellphone and it is all wrapped inside a tattered blanket of global warming.
Given much of Axis Theatre’s prominence comes from its reputation as masters of physical theatre, there is decidedly little in the way of physical theatre going on here. There are a couple of successful attempts that include the opening sequence and a beautiful ballet-like scene as Rip is initially frozen, but all of these scenes all take place very early-on, with the remaining time a pastiche of silent film chases and fish-out-of-water interactions. At two hours with intermission, there needs to be variety and unfortunately with RIP! things quickly become repetitive.
There is some irony perhaps with Axis Theatre’s desire to create an adult mainstage production for its touring repertoire from a tale that has seen most of its success as a children’s story. And while there may be some connection with the political theme that some attribute to Irving’s original story, like much of RIP! A Winkle in Time it too is lost in a show that fails to live up to expectations.
RIP! A Winkle in Time. Conceived and written by KC Brown and the Rip! Creative Collective. Directed by Wayne Specht and Kathryn Bracht. On stage at the Waterfront Theatre through May 17. Visit https://www.axistheatre.com for tickets and information.