The ideas at play in Up Wake are simple: Life is short. People are not machines. Pay attention to the things that count. Contemplate.
Despite the passion performer Natasha Tsakos brings to these themes in her one-woman show, playing through Saturday at the Carnival Center's Studio Theater, they would add up to little more than cliches were it not for the energy and creativity bursting out of Tsakos throughout her hour on stage.
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Tsakos's performance is a frenetic amalgam of dance, physical comedy, and pantomime in the midst of a pounding score (ranging from symphonic music to Michael Jackson samples) and an insistent multimedia presentation that includes projected images and text. Up Wake takes as its cue one of the first messages to appear on screen: "In a fast society, a mind cannot think. Dream."
We first see Tsakos's character, Zero, clutching a briefcase that reveals itself to be a living, breathing instrument, and from there the audience is plunged into her dreamscape. Anyone who has ever had a work-related anxiety dream might recognize the terrain: a mad pace infuses Zero's every move amid imaginary file cabinets, computers, and empty suits, but music, dance, and comedy help her transcend this dead-end existence.
Tsakos, a New World School of the Arts grad, is at her best when she is moving and contorting her lithe body, whether in the presence of various props or scratching — and lip-synching to -- the projected records on the floor. It's a testament to her talents and to the forcefulness of her stage presence that, despite the familiarity of her ideas, we are nonetheless compelled to reflect on them. As well we should. -Frank Houston