|in media res asked for reactions about ten days ago--haven't been on, so here a bit late are responses to the individual plays (no comments on the ten minute plays or the short pieces written for the apprentices; they were all pretty slight, although there were a couple of decent pieces, so I'll post about them later on). The Festival has good years and bad years, and this wasn't a steller year. I do regret the dispersal of the resident acting company; the performers were all competent this year, but there weren't any really standout performances as there often were in the past.
Some notes on Humana Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville 2007
highly personal reactions, in order of play seen:
Naomi Iizuka, Strike-Slip. Fascinating use of the Los Angeles slippery (literally) ground, with solid performances. Rested too firmly on ethnic/gender/class stereotypes for my taste, and there were some odd jumps, as if there’d been some hasty rewriting. Several people I respect really liked this, and there were some shifts with the stereotypes they liked. Not enough for me.
Alice Tuan, Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party Spectactular. New Paradise Laboratories group from Philadelphia. Lots of Suzuki influence, lots of repeated actions. Some striking visual images, and use of large video screens that reflected/commented on or were part of the action. Very noisy, and made its points over and over and over. I’m told by a playwright friend who’s worked with the group that the work was in part out of place in a “new plays” setting, since the focus is on movement and non-verbal communication.
Carlos Murillo: dark play or stories for boys. Coming of age with virtual reality: a teenaged nerd creates the ideal teenaged girl online and entanglements with a teenaged boy ensue. Powerful, and will resonate with young audiences. Some folks found the amorphous sexuality unbelievable; didn’t bother me, as I see lots of young people who are testing and experimenting in startling ways (at least to someone like me who was a teenager in the Eisenhower era), so that didn’t seem unusual. The very solid performances helped the piece as well.
Craig Wright: The Unseen. Two prisoners, able to verbally communicate but in insolation in an unnamed, totalitarian place where torture regardless of outcome,. Beckett territory. Quite terrific performances from Richard Bekins and Gregor Paslawsky. The first half dragged a bit—this is, after all, familiar territory from the work of Beckett and Genet a half century ago, and there weren’t enough changes or fresh ideas at work. However, once the play moved into one prisoner’s projections of release, it redeemed itself and wound up as a moving and believable work. Some have faulted the play for the start verbal violence of the sadistic guard’s vivid description of maiming another prisoner to try to stop the prisoner from implicitly judging his torturer; the description was horrific—but then, so is torture, and it seemed to me entirely justified.
Sherry Kramer: When Something Wonderful Ends: a history; a one woman, one Barbie play. I had read Kramer’s play last year, since she’d sent an early draft for the Lawrence and Lee Institute, where we collect her work. And I found the play so powerful that I directed a staged reading of it in June, 2006. I found this current version even more powerful and moving, as she tied together American consumerism and world economic dominance with Islamic nationalism and a clear answer for President Bush’s plaintive question on September 12, 2001: “why do they hate us so?” An equally solid performance from Lori Wilner, and another spectacular stage set—with so many Barbies and Kens that collectors in the audience must have been salivating, although it made the stage a bit busier than I’d like. Some faulted the play for being too much a history lecture. No a problem for me—I enjoy theatre that raises questions in a formal way as much as I enjoy sentimentality.
Ken Weitzman: The As If Body Loop. Terrific combination of New Age healing powers, sports enthusiasm, and a healthy dose of skepticism. Extremely well performed, as were all the productions. And, as with so many of the other plays (the Kramer, the Wright, the Izuka), September 11th was a hovering presence. In this piece, a powerfully moving one; I found myself in tears more than once. And for a hardened, cynical alte kocke, that’s saying something. These last fiour pieces will have a life after Louisville, I think.
Not the greatest festival I've seen (and I've been attending off and on for about twenty years), but certainly not the worst.
Last edited on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 12:15 am by alan0198