Saturday, February 23, 2008

Theater of Interest from Around the World

Periodically, I'd like to share with you all some of the productions I've seen by companies that are not based in NYC. Of course, since I am based in NYC, many will be by companies that perform here. However, Catherine and I love to travel, and whenever we visit another city, we try to see at least one local company. The exception to this rule was Paris in 2004, because as this blog has already established, I don't speak French, and there was no English-speaking theatre playing the week we visited that interested us.

However, that same trip included a train through the Chunnel to London, where we saw 5 performances in 5 days. The outstanding production of the bunch (and all but 1 were very good to excellent productions... and now that I've dandled that shiny ornament before you, I promise to write about that production some time in the future...) was Kneehigh Theatre, which is based in Cornwall. We saw their production of The Bacchae at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Catherine and I both felt that it was by far the best production we saw in 2004 and I still think it's among the top 10 productions I've ever seen.

First, there was the live band onstage, which members of the ensemble joined for musical numbers. I'm a big fan of live music in plays and I especially like to see it integrated into the production instead of hidden off to one side. The adaptation by  Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy was fantastic—a relatively straightforward telling of the story, not highly deconstructed, but clean, clearly written and incredibly funny; the kinda script that makes you say, "Man, I wish I wrote that!" Emma Rice's direction was spot-on: her inventive staging never felt imposed on the play, it was fast-paced, well-played and visually stunning. 

For the acting, I don't remember a single weak link in the entire cast. The chorus of men who played the Bacchae—all women in the play, so the guys were all in drag... but not the way you might expect, which you'll see if you look at the slideshow—were a collective of individuals: they worked beautifully as a unit but still had their own unique personalities, some of which I still remember to this day.  Éva Magyar as Agave (in the photo above) was amazing—beautiful and atheletic and just a pleasure to watch. But Róbert Lucskay as Dionysus was definitely the stand-out: from his first appearance (from an exit in the audience right beside Catherine and me) in red high-heeled pumps, ridiculously tall red fez and pin-striped suit, he was the quirky embodiment of the angry god among mortals.

In looking at their schedule, I find that Kneehigh is going to be performing Rapunzel at the New Victory Theatre here in NYC March 7th through 23rd! I will do my best to see this production and report back to you all. It's a remarkable coincidence because I had the idea to do this series before I decided which company to use for the first post!

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