I really hate to end my coverage of OUTsider Festival on a negative note.
I spent most of the day working another job, but I was excited to end the festival by seeing Pythia Dust at the Vortex. I figured it was too cold to really enjoy the closing party at Cheer Up Charlie's anyway. Now I'm left wondering if all the amazing queer art out there is being made elsewhere than Austin.
Pythia Dust markets itself as “a musical interstellar voyage.” I'm sorry, but when you say you're taking me on a voyage, I expect to go somewhere. I had been attracted to the show by the glittery costumes, and the promise of a queer sci-fi romp.
Unfortunately, Pythia Dust proved to be all flash and no substance. The box office staff did say the show was in cabaret style, encouraging attendees to come and go to the Butterfly Bar for more drinks at any time. What I didn't realize was that the show itself would be almost impossible to sit all the way through. I think Pythia Dust would be more suited to a bar setting where people can enjoy the music as a background to dancing or conversation, rather than as the main focus of the night.
The plot of the show, if you can call it that, is that the three crew members are traveling around to a variety of planets, and each planet is portrayed in a song. Except the crew members don't actually go anywhere or meet anyone. They just dance on the deck of the starship, to a series of songs that sound a little too much the same. If the songs had been stylistically diverse, even, I might have enjoyed it more. But as it was, they were variations on a theme, and not so variable at that.
I can't find much to critique as far as the technical elements. The costumes were spot-on, the lights and smoke set the mood, the triangle stage with glowing translucent poles could easily have been the navigation room of a starship. At times the musical accompaniment was so loud it was hard to make out the lyrics. The choreography was a little stylized. The actors seemed to be having a good time, but I just couldn't really find a through-line.
Maybe I was grasping too hard to find a narrative. The people around me in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, but I kept wanting to look at my cell phone to see how much longer until it was over. I thought about leaving, but I kept thinking maybe it would get better or I would figure out what they were trying to do. I didn't.
Either Pythia Dust is just a flashy, sparkly, silly show filled with original music and glitter, or it's supposed to be dark below the surface and they just didn't commit. I don't actually believe the show's creators meant it to be dark, but as I was trying to make sense of what was in front of me, I wondered, what if these women are trapped on this spaceship, forced to wear outrageous costumes and travel from planet to planet where they're possessed by alien spirits who make them sing and dance as entertainment, like the Emperors of old?
Except that would actually be interesting. I spent most of the show thinking of all the things they could have done which would have been more interesting than what Pythia Dust actually is. Each planet, for example, is inhabited by a mis-mash of historical and mythical characters. But what would a planet filled with Don Juan, conquistadors, and satyrs actually look like? Or one filled with Morgan le Fay, dragons, and dark wizards? That would be fucking cool, and it wouldn't just be three women doing mostly the same dance moves to mostly the same beats for 80 minutes. Why not just pick one planet and really explore it? Or what could a starship manned only by women with a female computer system look like? What could they do?
But I digress. The music was ultimately all too similar for me to feel I went on a journey to anywhere, and after watching these actors dance for so long without a break, even I felt tired. I heard people laughing and clapping, so what do I know? Maybe they saw something I didn't see.
If you do decide to go see Pythia Dust, go with friends. That way, if you're as bored as I was after a song or two, you can just chat in the Butterfly Bar or eat at the crazy good Italian food truck Patrizi's right outside which cooks fresh pasta to order for you. Pythia Dust runs through March 8 and tickets can be purchased here.
This article was originally published by The Horn on 02/23/15.