Solo full-mask show "The Heist" 

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Credits for all pictures: Saska A. Mutic

By Lee Delong

With Ralf Wetzel

Music by Monique Laleeuwe

Masks by Ralf Wetzel

Song "Drowning" by Lee Delong

 

"The Heist" is a melodrama, played with full-masks by a solo actor. The piece explores the plight of a man who loses everything. Using comedy, mask, music, and movement, "The Heist" criticizes an exploitative, capitalist world.

The story opens on the mundane but happy life of small bistro owner and chef, Steve, who is suddenly thrown into the maelstrom of a global pandemic. Without warning or reason, his business is at the mercy of various restrictions and closures, bringing him to the brink of ruin. He is forced into a life of crime, at which he fails miserably. He seeks to understand the reason for his fate and finding no answers, he spirals desperately to rock bottom. When he nearly succumbs to the hopelessness of human struggle, an ironic twist of fate lights the path back to what he truly loves, though that love is compromised.

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Steve, a bistro chef, discovering disturbing news ...

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... with a new owner taking over ...

The deliberate choice of full masks elevates the complexity of the play on several levels: First of all, it ignites a deep reflection about the use of masks in our daily lives, what we're veiling and unveiling with them, whether the masks be visible or invisible. Secondly, it investigates how a specific type of mask – like the one we are forced to wear to fight the pandemic - acutely alters our behavior. These ‘masks-on-top-of-masks’ sharpen the focus on behavioral changes we experience when wearing a mask. Finally, the physical nature of full mask work provides a rich playground to explore emotional despair, which is by definition beyond words. Solo full-mask presentations are rare, making The Heist an experimental theater of high physical intensity, and unique poignancy, with an incredibly innovative soundscape.  

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... forcing Steve to go unusual ways ...

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... which do not go unnoticed ...

Lee Delong masterfully dissects the human struggle for survival and its inherent meaninglessness in an alluring, charming way. She contrasts the wordless sufferings of a masked life with a heightened sense of poignancy. She puts Wetzel through all his moves to explore the play’s multiple characters. Since there is only one actor and four masks, Wetzel must change characters and physicality with great prowess. Wetzel jumps, rolls, tippy-toes, explodes, collapses, dreams, and agonizes in rapid-fire succession with enormous skill. Delong’s use of musical underscoring and sound effects elevate Wetzel’s interpretation. The resulting music, combined with Monique Laleeuwe’s adept contribution, add color to Steve’s emotional rollercoaster and provide a soundscape that fills the empty space. A general light, comedic style puts the melodrama of the story into greater value. This rare ensemble of elements renders a timely piece of melodrama, uniquely and tenderly delivered.