“Listening is an act of love.” This is the contemplative thesis statement of Zorana Sadiq’s solo show, MixTape, currently playing at Crow’s Theatre. It’s so simple, it sounds almost banal. Sadiq isn’t talking about the passivity of mere hearing; active listening demands our focused attention. Within that context, the line transcends its corniness and blossoms into a visceral truth.
Sharing the expansive space with a wide-back chair and tape deck, Sadiq relates her life’s journey with music as a companion and guide. Her training as an opera singer figures prominently. There is a some technical jargon—terms that describe very specific techniques and auditory phenomena, but it never feels pedagogical. Weaving them into her language, she establishes the vital idea that music’s magic is essentially comprehensible and attainable—with skill and knowledge and focused effort.
Sadiq is amiable and charismatic, her voice an emphatic and generous invitation. The performance is so intensely fluid, you almost miss her precision. Emotional states of being take on physical texture, musical ideas become tangible artifacts to hold and examine. She has an astounding ability to blend and re-contextualize and cross-reference without ever disorienting her listeners.
She shows us the musicality of life as a sustained and vivid through-line. We wince at the strained chords of her fraught relationship with her mother—a dutifully concerned caregiver who can’t allow her daughter the space to forge her own path. Our hearts sink along with her own at the low, awful notes of a vocal coach’s devastating statement. She conveys the fierce crescendo of sexual awakening and the soaring trill of artistic achievement.
Thomas Ryder Payne’s sound design provides a nuanced and integrated aural landscape that supports Sadiq’s points. The execution is seamless. Rather than mere cues, the projected sounds are experienced as emanations from her own expressive psyche.
Julie Fox’s stage floor is a modest yet intriguing bit of design—a raked surface of light wood with linear grooves, two holes at one end and a raised fret at the other. My guest and I spent some time considering what, if anything specific, this stylized plane represents. Our mutual interpretation is that the stage is an abstracted musical instrument—sturdy, warm and resonant.
Arun Srinivasan’s lighting draws attention to itself in one specific device: a set of drifting follow-spots that occasionally hit their mark, but then wander off—untethered and searching. I’ve seen this before in director Chris Abraham’s work. In his production of The Boy in the Moon, it seemed to represent the intangible consciousness of a boy (with a rare genetic disorder) which his parents yearn to capture. Here, its meandering presence suggests the spirit of music itself—a constantly moving target for Sadiq, often lining up with her life’s rhythms, but sometimes painfully allusive.
My adolescence and teenage years correspond perfectly with the period when cassette “mix-tapes” were a thing. Though I have no memory of ever having made any myself, I fondly recall the phenomenon. And the metaphor is certainly apt—a curated collection of crafted sounds that tell us who she is and how she got here. It is also an invitation to unpack our own formative experiences and place them in a musical context.
And Sadiq is just such a delight. MixTape is a great excuse to hang out with her in a shared space.