“We are in the business of creating original multidisciplinary spectacles,” says Matt Reckeweg, co-artistic director of the Pointless Theatre Company. “Officially, our mission is to smash the boundaries between puppetry, dance, music, and the visual arts. We use the term spectacle to describe the work that we create, because we don’t really make traditional plays. We are often looking at ballets or silent film or multimedia work or concerts [to adapt]. We rarely produce just a straight play, if you will.”
Such is the case with the company’s latest endeavor, Visions of Love. The hour-long, movement-based show is based on the Charlie Chaplin 1931 classic City Lights, in which the silent star’s iconic “Little Tramp” grows devoted to a blind flower girl and, through happenstance, changes her life forever.
“This play, in particular, has been such a joy to make because the story is about kindness,” says the 31-year-old Southern Maryland native, who directed the piece. “To call it a romance is, I think, a little deceptive. It’s actually about friendship and generosity.
“Our company has been making a lot of challenging works that are dark or that are an investigation of big social issue,” he continues. “With the political climate as it is, theater artists know the necessity of making work that challenges. But, on the flip side, if all of our work is that, then it starts to become taxing. So, this piece is a breath of fresh air from that. We’ve been calling it a valentine to our audiences.”
The biggest challenge in adapting City Lights, says Reckeweg, was deciding what to “keep from the film, and what to add to it to make our own. Audiences can watch the film before they come, so we had a certain desire to pay homage to it. But there’s also us wanting to adapt it to our own aesthetic for the stage.”
Among Pointless’ regular aesthetics is the deployment of puppets alongside human actors. For this production, the puppets were created by Alex Vernon, a member of the Happenstance Theatre Company.
“Alex designed these gorgeous sculpted foam puppets that look like they’re carved out of wood,” marvels Reckeweg. “If they were true wood, they would be much heavier. Still, you’d be surprised at how a piece of foam starts to feel heavy when you’re carrying it over the course of an hour. Your arm starts to really wear out. We call them puppet muscles. It’s a real thing.” He pauses. “Or maybe that’s just something we made up.”
Visions of Love plays weekends through Feb. 9. At Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St. NW. Tickets are $32. Call 202-621-3670 or visit www.danceloft14.org.