The Cave | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Cave 


With their multimedia opera The Cave, the husband-and-wife team of composer Steve Reich and video artist Beryl Korot have an ambitious goal in mind--to create a modern myth that's just as primal and relevant as the ancient antecedents that inspired it. The opera's title is drawn from the biblical and Koranic stories in which the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (located on the present-day West Bank) became the burial site of Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants. Israeli Jews, of course, claim Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, as their forefather; Muslims, on the other hand, honor Ishmael, Abraham's son by Hagar, Sarah's handmaiden, as their ancestor. The shared heritage between Jews and Muslims, underscored in acts one and two, is one of the opera's potent themes and a timely reminder in its appeal for peace. Its significance for the rest of the world, especially the U.S., which has its own racial and religious tensions, shows especially in the final act--a paean to brotherhood worthy of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." For their myth telling, Reich and Korot have used an astonishing variety of idioms and the latest high-tech gadgetries in forging a performance style that speaks to the sensibility of the 90s and beyond. The audio portion is filled with hypnotically rhythmic music (now available as a two-CD set on Nonesuch) that reinforces the parallels between age-old chants and Reich's melodic minimalism. Interspersed throughout are snippets from word associations and interviews with subjects from all walks of life on the meaning and relevance of Abraham and his family. Corresponding images on the monitors, taped by Korot, add to the sense of a futurist Tower of Babel rising toward spiritual unity. Paul Hillier conducts the Steve Reich Ensemble. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; 831-2822. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Didi Sattmann.

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