The Double Edge Theater put on a fantastic Latin American Spectacle show in the soaring vaulted hall of the former Blessed Sacrament Church this past Saturday and Sunday nights during Memorial Day weekend.
The show was part three-ring acrobatic circus, part political theater and part High Mass. The ensemble of musicians and dancers from Charlestown Working Theater and the Hyde Square Task Force put on a story-song about a community in change.
The audience was part of the performance although the audience weren't quite aware of that during the Sunday evening performance.
The program began with a costumed vocalist singing traditional songs with her accompanying guitarist standing on the church steps. Then came two costumed women, mother and daughter, circulating with bunches of long stem flowers that the younger one gave away; Following them was a merchant in dark suit coat and flowered fedora pulling a kiddie wagon with samples of his wares, working the audience with jokes and comments as his assistant gave away watermelon slices saying "eat it quickly" as he warned one tyke "or it'll melt."
Then came muffled drums off to the side and soon dancers in traditional dress, a pounding samba band, horn players and stilt walkers appeared marching through the audience and up the church stairs.
"Welcome to the Latin Quarter!" shouted an exuberant Brenda Rodriguez Andujar, director of arts and cultural programming at the Hyde Square Task Force. "This is our second night and last night was something I will always remember."
Speaking later she said, "We shut down Centre Street for two nights!"
Led by the thumping samba band the ensemble turned and walked into the former church followed by the audience.
What was once a hushed auditorium was filled with long billowing colorful sheets hung floor to ceiling and draped between the pillars from which dancers and acrobats swung, twirled and swayed.
The audience filed in and was greeted by ringmaster Carlos Uriona standing on a ladder. Uriona, a former street performer from Argentina, joined Double Edge in 1994 and is one of the creators of the Spectacle. For an hour Uriona directed the audience to turn first right, then left and then turn around as one action or music or dance was performed at all corners of the hall.
Scattered between the pillars were built sets depicting a store and houses from which storytellers in traditional dress appeared who spoke of their past culture and families and the changes in their new land that Uriona, who knows his New England History, called Shawmut. At one "house" lovers kissed on a balcony to the sounds of an accordion player below; Next door women swept their veranda floor as young men outside said, "We cant afford to live here. The rents are high. We will be displaced."
Then a stage opened up to show a club dance floor. Up bounded a burly man announcing his intention to turn Hyde Square into gleaming towers. With the samba band booming the accordion player and the club dancers chased the developer off the stage and he swiftly climbs up a ladder and sweeps from the rafters above the audience on a trapeze cord.
The dancers and samba band performed and then with the drums leading the troupe, they made their way through the church, and with the audience following, moved down the stairs and out to Centre Street.
The audience clapped and danced behind stilt walkers, a New Orleans horn section, dancers and the samba band, and followed the procession down the street to the Mozart Playground where more dancing and drumming took over; Then the troupe led everyone back to Blessed Sacrament where the ensemble bowed and said good night.
This was the first time Blessed Sacrament Church had been opened to the public since it was closed in 2004. The Hyde Square Task Force acquired it in February 2014.
The production was funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Boston cultural Council, The Boston Foundation, the Art Place and the City of Boston.