Review: Masque of the Red Death

Review by Jocelyn Delifer. MOVETHECOMPANY, led by Joshua Beamish, premiered his full-length work The Masque of the Red Death, inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe short story at the Joyce Theater last Thursday and Friday.

Beamish carries the audience into a world between science fiction and fairy tales, still rigorously following Poe’s storyline. The novel (worth reading, click here) is about a red plague that decimates the population, while Prince Prospero entertains his guests at an opulent ball, safe from the plague.

The narration by opera singer Jessye Norman, which sounds like an old recording, contributes to the gloomy and fantastic atmosphere, enhanced by an electronic soundtrack. Unlike traditional ballets where dance is at the center of a performance, here the soundtrack, lighting, costumes and story become the essence of the show. Dancers interact with the light resulting in mesmerizing shadows; and their actions finely illustrate the narration. Beamish succeeded in creating an atmosphere as dark as the underlying story. The ending is almost cinematographic in its execution and conveys the chilling intrusion of the personified red death.

This work, by the richness of visual and sound effects, grows into a piece of modern art, similar to exhibits at the Whitney or the MoMA; it is intriguing and transports the viewer to unknown places, requiring an open mind to enjoy it.