Children are the true magicians in our midst: They can transform a sandbox into a bed of hot lava, use an empty bucket to serve high tea, or describe in chilling detail the monster that crept out from under the bed last night. Sometimes adults try to recapture that sense of wonder by pulling rabbits out of top hats or coins out of ears. Too often, though, these tricks lack the thrill of a child’s imagination, maybe because the adults don’t seem to believe in magic themselves.
Not so with Aurelia’s Oratorio.
This is not the world you thought you knew, although it bears a close resemblance to it. In Aurelia’s Oratorio, roses are placed in a vase stem up, rats leave dead cats on the doormat, and women go to sleep to the sound of buzzing alarm clocks. In this world, kites fly people on a stiff breeze, an ice cream cone is hot enough to burn your mouth, and shadows walk upright while their owners trail along the ground. Just as in the world we know, there is darkness here as well as joy: Sometimes coats attack their owners, and mothers suckle their babies with cigarettes instead of bottles.
In fact, what makes Aurelia’s Oratorio so magical is that our world remains utterly recognizable despite being turned upside down. Like the daydreams of a child lying in bed and imagining walking through her house if the ceiling were the floor, this skewed vision of reality retains its familiar characteristics. Who can’t relate to a woman using her chin to stabilize a precarious stack of groceries, or to the desire to curl up in a dresser drawer with a glass of merlot?
In this plot-less, surreal drama, you can find yourself climbing up a curtain and disappearing down a rabbit hole, and like a puppet watching a human show, you get a shock when you realize you’re observing the whole thing passively. After all, adult or otherwise, don’t we all wish we could walk out onto the dewy lawn, reach up into a freshly laundered shirt hanging on the clothesline, and feel ourselves being lifted up and whisked away into the great wide unknown?