Review: Zoo Motel, part of FOLDA

by Lynn on June 14, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Part of the Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA) June 9-13, 2021.

The Zoo Motel Staff:

Motel Guest (creator, magician etc.) Thaddeus Phillips

Interiors, Steven Dufala

Direction, Tatiana Mallarino

Magic, Steve Cuiffo

Night Clerk, Newton Buchanan

Night Clerk, Miriam Hyfler (I guess depending on the show you chose)

Reservations, Melissa Jernigan

Dancing, Katya & Fernando.

This was a very complex, ambitious show because of the audience’s involvement. There were lots of instructions. We were asked to print off various documents that were sent to us by e-mail attachment.

The documents were:

  1. Your Room Key, on which is your room number
  2. Welcome Brochure
  3. A Zoo Motel Evacuation Map
  4. A blank piece of stationary
  5. An outline drive-in car to cut out.

And there were instructions:

  1. Cut out the items along any dotted lines.
  2. Place your room key in the slot in the brochure
  3. Have all materials on hand for your time at the Zoom Motel.
  4. And remember, find by any means necessary, a deck of cards.

I went and bought a deck of cards. I didn’t have a deck of cards in my apartment.

When I tried to print the various documents the typing was so huge it did not fit on the page. I tried to diminish the printing. It still came out with huge typing. I had no instructions then.

We were told if we could not print the documents then we would have to use another device to read the instructions like a cell phone or a tablet, besides the device were using to watch the event. We also needed a device that had a camera and a microphone so I could not use my PC which doesn’t have either. I plugged in my cell phone to charge it cause it was getting low, as was I with the frustration of it all.

I had the charged phone beside me at the ready to show my key etc. I had the cards at the ready. I waited to begin and we did exactly on time. Love that!

We were checked in by the Night Clerk who wanted to see our documents. My cell phone was not brilliant in showing the documents. That didn’t seem to bother him as much as it bothered me, and if that didn’t bother him then why should we have bothered at all? Hmmmm.

The Night Clerk checked us all in. A man entered his hotel room, the Night Guest.  He looked through the peep hole.  He wore a sleek backpack (that I wanted) when he took it off he was wearing a jacket with what looked like a brain on the back of it. Clever! He took items out of the cupboard, a wonderful red manual typewriter for example.

There were items around the room: a tiny model of the Titanic; Maneki-neko, Otsuchi ‘wind phone’, Mojave phone booth, Starlite Drive-in Sigh. He told us the significance of each as he wove a winding tale. Oh, and he realized that the door to his room disappeared. Gone. He found the peep hole on the floor.

He did various mind tricks especially with the cards. I will only tell you one because there is an interesting point. He showed a bunch of cards face up then more cards face down. He put both the faced-up cards and the faced down cards together in a pile and then neatly spread all the cards in a line across the table. All the cards were now face down. How did he do that? I don’t know. But it was interesting seeing the other people watching the zoo motel—Zoom Motel? Some watched without even noticing the cards were now all face down. The reaction for the most part was muted. I thought that odd.

The tricks got more elaborate. There were reactions this time. The show is about connection, space, family, missing loved ones, perhaps climate change we went from the Mojave desert to a lush garden in Japan.  

The world was created in that hotel room as it shifted, changed, and unsettled our conception of where we were. Wonderfully clever. Beautifully done.

When it was finished Thaddeus Phillips, the creator and the Motel Guest took us ‘backstage’ to show us how things were done, but not the card tricks. Fascinating.

After the show, I pulled up the instructions, this time on my laptop. They fit the screen nicely. I printed them off from the laptop. It printed perfectly. Didn’t work with my PC. Kafka? A mystery? Don’t know.

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