At its most intense, the creative process involves agony and ecstasy, torment and triumph, impassioned engagement and, if all goes well, a rewarding outcome.
That mindset is contained in the extremely loose “plot” of H2OMBRE, the immersive summer extravaganza now getting its world premiere at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. But it’s also likely that creators Pichón Balindu, Gabriella Baldini and colleagues including creative consultant Sergio Trujillo went through much of the above in devising the show.
Two of the founding members of the Argentine theater troupe De La Guarda, Baldinu and Baldini scored a massive worldwide hit with Villa Villa, and their colleague Diqui James had another in Fuerza Bruta, which played the Arsht in 2009.
Under the banner of their new company Ojalá Entertainment, director Baldinu and producer Baldini, along with the Arsht’s Scott Shiller (who gets producer and “special artistic adviser” credit in the program), are hoping that the Miami run will be the beginning of a long, successful road for H2OMBRE. That’s possible, but it will be more likely if they keep working the creative process to deepen and polish the show.
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For H2OMBRE, the stage of the Arsht’s Ziff Ballet Opera House has been transformed into a dark club-turned-theater, with a stage at one end of the space, seating at the other end, and a large area in between where the majority of theatergoers stand, engage with the actors and get wet (some super soaked) during the show’s hour-long running time.
The open-to-interpretation “story,” such as it is, involves the physically expressive Leo Kreimer as the Artist, a man who is plunging into, well, your guess is as good as mine. The wellspring of creativity? A dream world? Substance-fueled visions? Who knows?
Early on, several large water balloons get popped over the crowd, the aim being to get people wet and playful as Gaby Kerpel’s electronica score begins to pound. Sometimes, performers dangling from thick cables “fly” over the throng. Sometimes, they stand on a platform near the seating area, two seeming to shed their skin, others gleefully spraying the H2O part of the show’s title far and wide.
The most intriguing action takes place on the stage, where Shango Films’ mapping projection design conjures myriad elements — the ocean, a desert, a waterfall, the starry sky, a man bursting into flames — for the actors, who engage with the different environments from shifting perspectives. At one point, a Muse (Eliana Espasande) and four beautiful Nymphs (María Eugenia Kochian, Candelaria Iocco, María Florencia Oliver Miranda and María Luz Glerean) emerge from different points in a filmy fabric to gracefully “dance” while airborne, then run like mad while dangling as the music shifts into techno overdrive.
A particularly creepy visual involves the gals, this time costumed as Lizards, devouring a guy lying on desert sand. The male cast members — Juan Guiraud, Federico Mackinze, Sebastian Prada, Ignacio De Santis, Tom Middleton, Juan Manuel Romero and Kreimer — turn the oddity of finding streams and gushers springing from their bodies into the opportunity for massive water fights. The big finale involves a colorful creature emerging from something that looks like a drab version of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors to cavort with dragon brethren and further drench the already soggy throng.
The actors, likely still getting used to the mechanics of the show, aren’t quite able to make the action look effortlessly magical, and they should. H2OMBRE is largely wordless, but some of Kerpel’s music features Spanish lyrics, so if you don’t understand español, you’ll miss out on those snippets of information.
How much you dig H2OMBRE will probably depend on your willingness to go with its spectacle-over-substance flow. And on whether you’re willing to brave one more Miami summer shower, only this time inside.