Theatre Review: Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

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Be still, my beating heart—Message in a Bottle is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. This is a dance-theatre show, with a story told using only dance, minimalist props, and the music of Sting. This show tells the story of one family—a father, mother, and three teenage children named Leto, Mati, and Tana—as they grapple with the very real experience of displacement from their homeland. The show is a critical reminder of the millions of refugees forced from their homes, especially since millions of them are children.

We begin with the family in their homeland, dancing to “Desert Rose”, blissfully unaware of what is to come. High-energy leaps and B-boy floorwork excite your senses. The parents are joyful, as their oldest is marrying the love of his life. But suddenly—bombs. The booms and flashes resonate through the theater, shaking the dancers and the audience to their core. Appropriately set to “King of Pain”, soldiers come to imprison the family and forcibly remove them from their homelands. “Fragile” began to demonstrate their suffering. As the family experiences grief, loss, and PTSD, they soon become split up and must learn to navigate their new world on their own.

Message in a Bottle

Act 2 elaborated on the three journeys the teenagers would take, leaving behind the last semblance of their previous life in their home community and assimilating into their new lives elsewhere in the world. Though the future seems dismal and isolating, hope glimmers on the horizon for each of our protagonists.

Interestingly, the Playbill does not specifically call out which dancers play which roles in the show. However, the performances are so frenetic that most appear to have opportunities to perform solos. I will say that the standout performances were the aforementioned “King of Pain”, “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” due, in part, to the portrayal of post-traumatic nightmares, “Roxanne” for the overall movement on the stage, and “So Lonely” which uses a very cool shadow projection effect to portray the feeling of reminiscing about those you miss.

Message in a Bottle

This show is truly something special—with great music, pacing, choreography, and energy. The story brings joy, sadness, fear, and even guilt at times…serving as an evocative look into the global human experience through a lens not often used. Without uttering a word, the dancers can tell an amazing tale through the phenomenal choreography of Kate Prince, and of course, the worldly and imaginative music of Sting. Don’t leave an empty chair in the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, buy your ticket to this amazing experience of a show.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE will play at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a limited one-week engagement (seven performances only); February 6 – 11, 2024.

Message in a Bottle

Tickets for MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE are available for purchase at or in-person at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office. Check the website for current box office hours. All prices are subject to change without notice.

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