Theater review: Is the future of staged theater “Here Lies Love”?

Ruthie Ann Miles is Imelda Marcos in "Here Lies Love" at The Public Theater through June 2. Credit: Joan Marcus
Ruthie Ann Miles is Imelda Marcos in “Here Lies Love” at The Public Theater through June 2.
Credit: Joan Marcus

Is it hyperbole to say that David Byrne has reinvented the stage musical with his thrilling “Here Lies Love” at The Public Theater? Byrne’s foray into the theater world is a breath of orchid-scented fresh air as he recounts the story of everyone’s favorite Filipina, the ever-fascinating fashionista Imelda Marcos, with a disco-infused beat and help from co-composer Fatboy Slim. Jumpsuited young traffic cops shepherd the dancing audience – seating is nonexistent in the main section – out of harm’s way as the shoulder-level turntable swings round to accommodate the flow of actors between the two stages at either end of the rectangular space and on to the catwalks on the side.

Virtually sung-through, “Love” follows its heroine from her early days as a rural beauty queen to her zenith as jet-setting first lady and subsequent fall from grace. We learn that she was first the girlfriend of Ferdinand Marcos’ most strident opponent, Benigno Aquino, and that she suffered deeply through her husband’s much-publicized affair with American actress Dovie Beams. We feel for Imelda when she plaintively asks, “Why don’t you love me?”

As if the driving music were not enough of an invitation, the MC encourages the audience – strongly – to dance along, but don’t be intimidated. If you can do the bunny hop at a wedding, just jack up the rhythm and you’ll be fine. Director Alex Timbers and his crackerjack design team execute Byrne’s vision with breathtaking flair. It’s a hell of a good time.

If you go

‘Here Lies Love’
Through June 2
The Public Theater,
425 Lafayette St.
$89-$94, www.publictheater.org


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