In the nascent art form of online theater, Thaddeus Phillips is already shaping up to be its most imaginative exponent. In 2020s Zoo Motel, the Colombian writer and performer turned inward to transform a tiny motel room into a palace of possibilities. Now in Zoo Mundo it faces outside.
From the same small studio in his family home, he tells an epic tale of three journeys on horseback across the globe that follow the route of mankind’s 3.4 million year journey from Ethiopia across continents. . There is an explorer who does everything on foot, an artist who visits his exhibition on human bones and a man who discovers the fate of his mother who never returned from a trip to the USSR.
Phillips does this in both ingenious and hand-crafted ways. With Zoom audiences watching – and sometimes joining in – he quickly takes us from posh Caffè Florian to Venice’s St. Mark’s Square and, via overnight train, to a power plant in Siberia, the jungles of South America and ultimately the Coffee House at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, the last coffeehouse on Earth.
Working with designer Steven Dufala and co-director Tatiana Mallarino, he inserts himself into his cardboard cut-out landscapes, sometimes a peering eye, sometimes his whole body in view, playfully distorting our sense of scale and perspective. With a mix of magic tricks and object theater techniques, he constructs the story in front of us in a way that feels theatrical, despite his reliance on the camera.
Although the journey is more important than the destination, it neatly brings its three strands together to conclude a delightful show about our big place on the planet and our little place in the universe.