In our new column – In Review – Victoria Moy critiques plays, shows and films that focus on lives as lived by the different ethnicities in America. This week she reviews DED!, a show written by Latin Grammy winner Carlos Lopez Estrada and Cristina Bercowitz.
A most adorable skeleton, Ded (performed by Carlos Lopez Estrada), pops up from under a sheet on a couch and discovers to his surprise that he’s bones and lacking flesh. A live band of musicians with skeleton faces sway and play music in the style of Mexican singer, songwriter, actor Agustín Lara. Ded sees his life in review from birth to childhood to early adulthood to his falling in love with The Girl In The Yellow Dress (Elizabeth Rian) and to the motorcycle accident that led to his demise.
The strange physics of his netherworld apartment makes it impossible for him to leave. The door won’t open. Instead, beer bottles, fists, and other random gifts come through a square hole in the door panel. Ded can’t talk. He can only whimper cutely and squeak, and dance in pantomime. The show takes place present-day but has the feel of 1930s-1940s Mickey Mouse cartoons.
The heart of the story is affecting and hits to the very core of any human’s greatest fear. To love someone, to lose that person, to be separated from them because you or they die, knowing you’ll never be able to reconnect with them again, and watching them move on without you.
The one solace when you’re dead is when the living take a few moments to celebrate you, which is what Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is about.
“DED!,” delightful and charming, was written by Carlos Lopez Estrada, who is a Latin Grammy winner (for an animated short), and puppeteer Cristina Bercowitz. The show included mime, clowning, video art, and puppetry, accompanied by live music composed by John W. Snyder. The band comprised piano (John W. Snyder), violin (Megan Shung Smith), saxophone and clarinet (Max Kaplan), trumpet (Zachary Groll), and double bass (Marc Mumcian).
Special effects, especially of calendar dates whizzing into the future and back, were superb.
The performance I attended was not completely family friendly when Ded asked an audience member for his wallet, and after emptying it of money, took out a condom. The musicians then mimed related activity (in as cute and childlike a way as possible).
The show was sweet and powerful, reminding us to cherish life’s precious moments. A few moments dragged and could have been trimmed, such as when actors waved a dollhouse and stuffed animal attached to poles, representing items flying through the room but weren’t sufficiently lit. Hopefully, this well-conceived show will run again next year.
DED! was presented at The Matrix Theatre by The Jumex Foundation of Contemporary Art in association with Bootleg Theater. The show has ended its run, but check dayoftheded.com for info for news in the future.
Victoria Moy is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based writer. She has a MFA from University of Southern California, where she studied playwriting, screenwriting and TV writing, and has a B.A. from Dartmouth College in Theater. She is also the author of the book Fighting for the Dream.