Oktoberfest flowed and the bratwurst was free the night I caught The Ring Cycle (Part 1 + 2), an alternative dramatic version of Wagner’s operas now playing at the Bushwick Starr. And the food set the mood for this very satisfying mix of pop culture and high art.
Director Dave Dalton successfully “recontextualizes” original mythic characters like Wotan, king of the gods, as pumped-up WWF personas. Women immortalized by their big 1980s hair (itself kind of a gesamtkunstwerk) egg on the clashing guy-gods. ZZ Top and heavy metal underscore choreographed takedowns, nimbly executed by the Performance Lab 115 ensemble.
This eccentric venture isn’t nearly as glib as it might sound. As they battle for earthly power, these Bushwick titans acquire an engaging Kabuki-like stature. Feisty comic scenes abound—such as the delightful seduction of the Nibelung dwarf Alberich (Marty Keiser) by racy Rhine-maidens. But when Seigmund (Jeremy Beck) falls in love with his sister, Sieglinde (Rebecca Lingafelter), Part 2 turns authentically tender and expressive—demonstrating how Wagner had a primal family drama at heart—even while the production exposes opera’s absurdities. Through witty dialogue and sly and exacting performances, the company stays surprisingly close to Wagner’s emotional ebbs. It’s golden fun—from an ensemble that goes all the way to the mat.