Mikel Rouse has definite ideas of what con- stitutes an artistic, theatrical experience, and today’s pop culture doesn’t cut it. His remedy: The End of Cinematics, a “pop opera” designed to shake us out of our populist somnambulism.
An opening of real movie trailers sets up his premise: Four embarrassingly safe previews lend purpose to Rouse’s multimedia experiment. You can’t predict a damn thing that’s going to happen here, he assures us, and this is incontrovertibly good.
Except it’s not. Rouse has created a technologically stunning production, with filmed projections on the scrim that are more real than holograms, but his destruction (it’s not just deconstruction) of plot is ultimately isolating. Each audience member has the freedom—and responsibility—to find meaning within layered New Order–video movements and evocative, nonlinear lyrics chosen as much for cadence as definition. The curious words are voiced by a gifted group: Three men in trench coats get the leads, while two women with Swing Out Sister superbangs and frumpy overcoats accompany; they’re not even foils to the men, merely echoes.
Trains, buses, rainstorms, and Paris streets abound and recur as synthpop songs are reprised to nearly palindromic effect. The performers joyously sing past and atop each other of gods out of control. Is it unsophisticated for an audience to desire a common experience instead?