New troupe National Headquarters’ debut production of Angelus Novus is steeped in concept and experimentation, based on a Paul Klee painting and the related writings of German cultural critic Walter Benjamin. While there’s no questioning the piece’s academic pedigree, the show’s narrative basics get lost in lofty aspiration.
The Angel of History (Angeline Gragasin) visits the down-and-out enclave of McKraken, Illinois. Heroine Angie Lou Lee (Gragasin) proposes that the depressed town hold a pageant to honor the angel and generate tourism’s filthy lucre. But the story dissolves as Angie and ambitious Mayor Minot (Brian Moore) fight for control of the pageant, only to have the whole thing falsely wrapped up as someone’s fever dream.
While Noe Cuellar’s sound design and Meredith Ries and Asta Bennie Hostetter’s costumes capture a ragged carnival atmosphere, the competent, energetic ensemble loses the language to the space’s muddy acoustics. Back to basics: Benjamin deserves better. (Lisa Buscani)
At AV-aerie, 2000 W. Fulton, #310, (312)850-9729. Through October 12.