Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Friday, October 10, 2014

Michael Bradford Writes Lorca

Olives and Blood
By Michael Bradford
Directed by Gary M. English
Lighting Michael Chybowski
Costume Design Thamiris Esteves
Sound Design Lexi Macchiaroli
Nafe Katter Theatre
Oct. 2 – 12 2014

When a poet writes about another poet it can be a dangerous thing.  We love our sisters and brothers and want to support them; sometimes that sweeps us up into an elegiac frenzy and interferes with the telling of the story.  On the other hand we sometimes over-correct and become so rigorous in our critique or analysis of another poet that find only fault where there is much good to be seen.
In writing about Federico Garcia Lorca, Michael Bradford manages to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of uncritical applause on the one hand and ungenerous fault finding on the other.  His script for Olives and Blood reflects one poet/playwright’s appreciation for the soul and work of another.

In another context, referring to his poetry, I said that
Michael Bradford is a writer who has found and is comfortable with his own voice.  We see in this script that he is comfortable as a playwright as well as a poet. 

Along with Ruben Dario, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Pablo Neruda, Lorca brought modernism to Spanish language poetry and drama, but he didn’t lose the sense of tremendum.

Duende is a spirit who takes over the performer, a magic spell that sometimes happens when everything is just right.  The word is a foreshortening of the Spanish, “duende de la casa,” when flamenco dancers say the master of the house has entered and the music is taken over by spirit.  Lorca made much of it in his lectures in Buenos Aires in 1933.

The most compelling scene of the evening, the scene where everything comes together, starts with Lorca directing The Actress.  He wants her to create the moment of duende.  She cannot find the truth of the scene and overplays her part.  The Actor joins them and they rerun the scene from Lorca’s play Yerma.   As they continue The Actor breaks character and starts to argue about her bringing their off-stage relationship into her acting of Lorca’s play.  This time everything has meaning, Lorca is mesmerized by their performance, and duende becomes manifest.

The scene at the Nafe Kater theatre works like a charm.  Bradford has written an important and magical scene but it is a difficult scene to make happen.  Gary English does a great job directing, and the three actors are pitch perfect, but the secret ingredient is the lighting.  Michael Chybowski changes the mood as he imperceptibly softens the lighting while the actress is talking.  I am sure the majority of audience members didn’t notice the lights change but they felt the change in their body.  The lighting was not merely illumination but was integral to the meaning of the scene.
Somatic lighting creates duende in response to the requirements of the script.  Wow!
The playwright should be highly satisfied.
Michael Bradford got an intelligent and sensitive production of his play from the team at UConn’s Nafe Kater Theatre.

Outstanding in the cast are Anita Petry as Actress/Margarite, Martin Solá as Trescante, Nicholas Urda as Lorca, and Gabriel Aprea as Antonio.

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mastodon Tracks In New Britain

The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons

by Rachel Teagle
directed by Jake Williams
produced by Johnny Peifer
Hole in the Wall Theatre, New Britain
Aug 2, 2014  (closes Aug. 23)

The Impracticality of Modern Day Mastodons is one of the best pieces of theatre available in Connect this Summer, catch it if you can.
Two keys to making a puppet work with actors in a live production are the small movements of the puppet and how well the human actors respond to and react with the puppet.  The current play at the Hole In The Wall Theatre, directed by Jake Williams, manages to fulfill both of those requirements.  Lisa DelCegno as the voice of the beast is wonderfully sympathetic and brings the giant puppet to life

The Mastodon was made by master puppet maker and Kinetic Sculpture Artist, Ann Cubberly.  The shimmering “skin” of the mastodon, and the many small movements made by the three puppeteers imbued the beast with both personality and emotional responsiveness.  I found myself comparing the piece to War Horse, that I was lucky enough to see during its run at Lincoln Center.

The premise of Mastodon: “what if our childhood dreams came true?” opens up endless possibilities for development.  Director, Jake Williams and his cast explore the possibilities of Teagle’s script with insight and ingenuity. 
Williams has DelCegno, the mastodon, who is the most fantastic character, play it most closely to realism.  While the other actors’ performances are more wild and surrealist.  
The individual performances run a spectrum of acting styles.  Vickie Blake, as the headhunter, Delores, turns in an-over-the top performance reminiscent of Phyllis Diller at her most manic.  Abby Auden, has a great sense of character and is unflappable on stage.  At 11 years old, she is a star in the making.  Brett Aiello, as the boyfriend, has a prosecutorial glare in his portrayal of the James Bond dreamer.  Jill Ann Dvorsky doubles as a news reporter and a temptress; she is a laugh a minute.  Joshua Ives also doubles as Pat St. John and Paleontologist 1.  He makes a strong contribution to the cast.  Reading from front to back, puppeteers Rob Ecker and Nicki LaPorte are sensitive and understated in their manipulation of the giant Mastodon.
The Jack Williams production of the Rachel Teagle play is a mad mix of acting styles and some how it works, as a matter of fact, it flies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joan Seliger Sidney: Bereft and Blessed

Joan Seliger Sidney
Bereft and Blessed:
Joan Seliger Sidney
Antrim Press,
Simsbury, Connecticut
Spring 2014

Sidney's new book published by Antrim House with a cover painting by Gray Jacobik reflects a continuation and deepening of her style and her soul.  Joan Seliger Sidney's poetry often deals with unspeakable hurt and almost unbearable compassion.  But she speaks it, and she bears it.   We know this because we hear it in her writing.  She shares the stories that were handed down to her, the stories she creates, and the stories she has lived, and she asks us to share, not the pain, but the misericordia.
She prefers 3-speed bikes, roller skates that clatter on pavement, granddaughters to the grandsons that she doesn’t have.  She prefers telling the truth, though the truth doesn’t always need to be told. 
She sometimes relives moments in pre-World War II Poland, a country where she never lived but where she can take us with her writing. A place where we can join her to recapture, a time that is gone, a place that is gone, and a community that she, with our help, will keep alive forever.
Ask her some day why her mother couldn’t speak Yiddish.  Or read about it in her book.  It is a book that will both break your heart, and lift up your spirit.  Joan Seliger Sidney is a poet who is both “Bereft and Blessed.” 

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spirit of Broadway: Benedict Arnold

Squandered Opportunity or Beginning of Change

In the In the Norwich Bulletin on Tuesday 10 July 2014 Ray Hackett chided the town of Norwich bigwigs for not supporting a play with roots in their town.  He spoke about how the arts, especially the performing arts, can be the vanguard of a town’s revitalization.The key to transformation of a community is often in the arts.  Ray Hackett’s critique of the absence of city government at the opening of “Benedict Arnold: The Musical” at the Spirit of Broadway theatre is a point well taken. To develop its profile Norwich must make a concerted effort by producing more plays, musicals, and more exhibits about Norwich. The theatre should experiment with different lengths of shows and different kinds of shows. It should repeat successful works again the following year. There must be continued support from the town.  
“Spirit of Broadway” must produce more Norwich related material and members of city government must offer ongoing support.  One-and-done is not the answer, but developing a community that supports its arts and knows its history can make all the difference.