A scene of creation and curiosity launches Electric Lucifer, but this particular scene is not found anywhere in Genesis or Milton. No, this scene comes from a much more recent source: none other than “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In a projected video clip, we see Fred Rogers making a visit to the studio of Bruce Haack, the electronic music pioneer whose 1970 concept album “The Electric Lucifer” inspired director Jim Findlay to create this production. Haack demonstrates a homemade synthesizer (or “musical computer,” as Mr. Rogers refers to it); the pleasure he derives from the machine is evident. What can this creation do? What happens if we mess with it a little?
These questions find an echo in the story of Lucifer, notorious fallen angel and tempter of humankind, including Jesus himself. Electric Lucifer is roughly structured around these two figures, using Haack’s songs and electronic compositions (newly adapted and with additional original music by Philip White) to re-envision the key moments of their stories, such as Lucifer’s fall from heaven, Jesus’s birth, and the crucifixion. As Lucifer and Jesus, downtown veterans Okwui Okpokwasili and Robert M. Johanson bring all their considerable charisma to bear, commanding the stage like the electronic rock gods we always secretly knew they were. Okpokwasili in particular is magnetic; steely-eyed and angular, she summons Grace Jones and David Bowie as she swaggers and struts, Lucifer as genderless cyborg deity.
Where is the line between humanity and something more? Man and machine, human and angel, god and robot—Findlay, Haack, and Lucifer are all curious experimenters in this realm. These experiments can produce electric moments, as in a surreal conversation between Lucifer and Jesus, both wearing animal masks, their dialogue electronically warped so as to be unintelligible. Impassive and unknowable, technology and divinity stare blankly back at our all-too-human curiosity.
Photo: Paula Court