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Review: Squonk Opera delivers it musical roots in 'Mayhem'

| Monday, March 15, 2010

Squonk Opera's latest show, "Mayhem and Majesty," returns to its musical roots with an inquiry into what music looks like.

Turning aside from recent, more cerebral and verbal shows such as "Astro-Rama," this show invites the audience to focus on sound and its impact.

Jackie Dempsey, who shares artistic director duties with Steve O'Hearn, wrote 18 of the 20 songs, with percussionist Kevin Kornicki contributing the other two. Their impact and interest is enhanced by striking visuals -- white umbrellas that blossom and contract, silhouetted projections of musicians, starry skies and video images of performers from multiple perspectives. Dempsey plays keyboard and accordion. David Wallace plays electric guitar. O'Hearn contributes on flute, sax, wind synth and manybell trumpet. Autumn Ayers' heavily miked voice becomes a haunting, alluring additional musical instrument.

The result is a musical experience that's colorful, chaotic, spiky, elegant, sensuous and surreal.

"Mayhem and Majesty" continues through Sunday with performances at 8 p.m Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5940 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door; $10 for students and artists. Details: 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org .

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