The Builders Association (Sontag:Reborn, Invisible Cities) takes audiences on a wild trip down the yellow brick road as it deconstructs and reconstructs The Wizard of Oz in its fun and innovative multimedia experimental production Elements of Oz. Conceived by Marianne Weems, Moe Angelos, and James Gibbs, directed by Weems, and cowritten by Gibbs and Angelos, Elements of Oz delves into the legend and legacy of the classic 1939 film, sharing little-known stories, reenacting key scenes, and examining its online presence, including theories about how the book and movie are metaphors for the U.S. monetary system and gold standard. Continuing at the 3LD Art and Technology Center through December 18, the show presents a small corp of actors who reenact and reshoot key scenes, creating a new version via multiple monitors that project what is happening onstage and freeze-frames taken from previous scenes. The piece is performed by Angelos, Sean Donovan, and Hannah Heller, who each portray several characters — all three play Dorothy Gale at various points. They not only switch roles, they also shift from commenting on the film to acting in its re-creation, and from past to present, telling tales of 1939 moviemaking and its ongoing reverberations in popular culture. Following a YouTube overture, Angelos delivers the first of many “talking points,” giving inside information to the audience. “It’s a masterpiece,” she says about the film, “but all we see is the magic. We don’t see all the brutal work and failure.” Elements of Oz reveals how much of that magic was made as stage manager April Sigler, associate lighting designer Elliott Jenetopulos, video designer Austin Switser, production manager Brendan Regimbal, and technical director Carl Whipple set up and break down Neal Wilkinson’s sets, filming short scenes that are then edited live to mimic the original, shot by shot, and played back on a large onstage screen as well as the monitors that fill the theater. Meanwhile, Moe relates stories about Margaret Hamilton and her double, Betty Denko, suffering major injuries; how “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was almost left on the cutting-room floor; that some of the munchkins were repurposed as flying monkeys; and what really happened when the film went from black-and-white to color.
Just as The Wizard of Oz made use of cutting-edge technology, so does Elements of Oz, which has a unique innovation of its own. During the show, which is based on both the film and the book by L. Frank Baum, there are moments that are best viewed through your smart phone or tablet via a free augmented reality app, designed by John Cleater, that enhances what you’re watching by adding visual and aural effects, from snow to giggling munchkins to other cool surprises. Angelos (the Five Lesbian Brothers), Donovan (Thank You for Coming: Play), and Heller (The World Is Round) are hysterical as they change from role to role, with Angelos as Dorothy and Glinda, the mustachioed Donovan as Dorothy, Uncle Henry, Mike Wallace, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, Salman Rushdie, and the Wizard, and Heller as Dorothy, Aunt Em, the Wicked Witch, the Scarecrow, Judy Garland, and Ayn Rand. (The costumes are by Andreea Mincic, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton, sound design and original music by Dan Dobson, and interactive design and programming by Jesse Garrison.) Originally presented by Peak Performances @ Montclair State University, the goofy and charming Elements of Oz is probably about twenty minutes too long, as things get a little repetitive, and as fun as the app is, you’ll find yourself at times looking at your phone, waiting for the next bit of AR to take place, instead of watching what is happening onstage. But like the original book and film, Elements of Oz is an enjoyable mind-expanding journey; and be sure to keep that app on as you exit 3LD and head down Greenwich St.