Chicago Theater's Aquatic Spectacle Becomes Apropos

For months Redmoon Theater in Chicago, known for its carnivalesque public spectacles, had been working on a late summer piece about love and birth in a flooded town.

The extravaganza, called "Loves Me . . . Loves Me Not," was just weeks from debuting when Hurricane Katrina hit. The entire play is performed on the water, in boats and half-submerged sets in a lagoon in a South Side park.

Finding it obviously impossible to miss the parallels between their production and the unfolding events, the company quickly revised the script to take on a darker, more reflective tone and added elements evocative of the Big Easy -- saxophones, a party raft swinging with bawdy dancers and colored lights, interrupted by harsh spotlights and the booming sounds of a storm. A woman delivers a baby on a rooftop, and people shuttle around on makeshift boats in a vaguely surreal, lawless environment.

"We were thrilled to have the opportunity for artists to respond to this event," said Oriana Fowler, a theater marketing associate. "It's still just as magical, but more poetic and somber than the show we were creating a couple months back. Then it was absurd to imagine a village underwater and people carrying on their domestic tasks from rooftops. That was the comedy of the original show, but then that became all too true."

-- Kari Lydersen

The Redmoon Theater staged its outdoor spectacle in a South Side Chicago lagoon.