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Ben Katchor’s Opera Reviewed in the New York Times

slug bearers shot

The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (Or, the Friends of Dr. Rushower), an opera created by Associate Professor of Illustration Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy, received an enthusiastic review by New York Times’ critic Ben Brantley yesterday. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Slug Bearers” may deal with subjects common to contemporary satire: fiendish industrial autocrats (in this case, the cackling George Klatter, played by a Lex Luthor-like Stephen Lee Anderson); shortsighted do-gooders; the limited attention span of news gatherers; and the (literal) insubstantiality of a technology-driven culture.

But Mr. Katchor is not an attack artist, and “The Slug Bearers” is neither sendup nor angry social rebuke.

Instead, like much of this artist’s work, it is propelled by a brooding and amused awareness of the strange, individual quirks and appetites that both keep people apart and occasionally bring them together.

This sensibility is conveyed with real enchantment by the set and projection designs of Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg (subtly enhanced by Russell H. Champa’s lighting), which bring to eye-teasing life Mr. Katchor’s drawings of lonely town (as in New York City) and polluted country (as in the tropical isle of Kayrol). Projections on scrims are used to create some delightful trompe l’oeil moments involving walking amid street traffic, riding elevators and even answering the phone.

These are never mere sight gags, though, but part of a thoroughgoing mise-en-scène that melts boundaries between the real and representational. At the same time there’s a strong, melancholy suggestion that the people who inhabit this flat but fluid landscape can never fully step into the world they live in. (And I mean the characters, not the performers.)

Read the complete review here, listen to a narrated slideshow about the opera’s development here, and as an extra bonus, we present you with a small preview of the show:


The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (Or, the Friends of Dr. Rushower)
An Opera by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy
Vineyard Theater
108 E. 15th St (btw Union Square and Irving Pl.)
New York, NY

[image by Carol Rosegg]