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Message in a Bottle is a Tour de Force

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By Kathleen Sterling

It’s rare that I write a theatre review. It’s just not my forté.

It’s also rare that we delve into national politics, because we focus on hyper-local  issues.

But I’m breaking my own rules after seeing the production of Message in a Bottle last night.

The play that opened at the Pantages in Hollywood is an emotional tour de force.

Brought to the U.S. after a successful run in the U.K., Message in a Bottle blends the brilliant dance choreography of Kate Prince with the music of Sting.

It follows a family of five, joyously celebrating their son’s engagement – until war breaks out and they are all separated.

Placed into refugee camps, the three siblings suffer the horrors of the camps, loss of their parents, and whatever it takes to survive.

Given the current fight over the border crisis with thousands fleeing their home countries’ war and corruption, thousands more detained in camps here in the United States, and the hostages held in the Middle East, Message in a Bottle reflects the tragedy, the trials and the ultimate triumph of a perilous journey to a new land.

We were amazed at the dancing, which blends contemporary and hip hop with traditional ballet, along with breaking, locking and popping.

The story is told seamlessly through the songs from Sting’s catalogue.

There are no words spoken at all during the production. 

It needs no words.

The evocative dance set to the strong lyrics are enough for you to follow the plot line – From “Every Breath You Take,” “Roxanne,” “Shape of My Heart” and “Fields of Gold.”

You watch with joy as the family celebrates life and love, with horror as they are rounded up into the camps, with sadness as the fiancé is led away to become a prison whore, and with hope as one by one, the siblings barter their way out of the camp and are reunited.

The emotional journey of song and dance ends on a high note, and the wonderful finale cannot be missed,

But the most telling moment of the play for me was one of the last songs, played during the incarceration. The lyrics to “Message in a Bottle” include “Sending out an SOS. Sending out an SOS.”

Around the world and here at home, the message is being sent.

But are we listening?


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