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

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Monday, July 17, 2006

Orlando by Chibeau

Orlando In Love
Theatre Review by Edmond Chibeau

“Orlando In Love” is an adaptation of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s epic poem “Orlando Innamorato.” It is being presented by Teatromania in New York’s Central Park at the Naumberg Bandshell on 15, 16, 17 July 2006

Vittorio Capotorto, the director of the production had to deal with the problems of producing an epic poem as a stage performance, the mixing of actors with varying abilities and training, and the vagaries of outdoor production in New York’s Central Park.

The results of his efforts are a surprisingly coherent presentation of a difficult text within a difficult context.

The director’s team had to bring the allegorical and courtly renaissance sensibility to a 21st Century audience. Setting up a stage production in the Naumberg Bandshell is not an easy task. The sets where simply constructed but used layers and the depth of the stage to advantage.

There was considerable variation in the abilities of the actors and musicians and dancers who make up the company. Some seemed fully aware of the outdoor performance space, the audience, and the timbre of the hot but beautiful Manhattan Summer night. While others never quite found their bearings and simply plunged ahead with the presentation.

The microphone mixer was often late in bringing up the microphones on the individual actors. The audience would miss the first few words and then have to interpolate backwards to piece out the meaning of a line of dialogue. On opening night the lighting was being adjusted throughout the intermission and parts of the performance. Producing in Central Park is an enormously complex and risky undertaking and Teatromania should be applauded for its bravery at undertaking such a daunting task.

The adaptation by Jo Ann Cavallo is smooth and flows nicely from the actors lips. Occasionally the language would shift abruptly from colloquial contemporary American English to British English to an older more courtly and formal mode that one might call International Romance Poetic. Cavallo has brought together Renaissance scholarship and poetic sensibility with dramatic flair.

The Renaissance was a time of rebirth in Europe of the Greek and Roman classics. Although the authors of the Renaissance may have thought they were following the classic traditions they were in fact creating a world of their own based on their imperfect and time biased interpretation of the classical world. We are now faced with interpreting their work through the imperfect lens of our own understanding, or misunderstanding, of the classics.

The epic in general and this epic in particular can be highly dramatic. Orlando Innamorato is replete with the many plot changes episodes and locations that one often finds in a Renaissance epic. Cavallo’s comedy adapted from the Boiardo’s epic poem takes place in 17 scenes and jumps all over the world from Charlemagne’s Court to Cathay

Boiardo’s romance of chivalry, adventure and courtly love was begun in about 1472 and remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1494. The piece ends in medias res with a promise to the audience by minor character that the story will be continued another day. It was written in ottova rima and heavily influenced by Francis Petrach (Francesco Petrarca) The story of Orlando (Roland) was taken up later, and more famously by Ludovico Ariosto in 1516 in his epic Orlando Furioso. (“Crazy Roland” or “Mad Orlando".)

The adaptation by Cavallo gives us a way into a story that will lead us back through time into the center of the Mediterranean Renaissance.