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Dead Horse Lear: After the Storm

2016-09-19-18-58-32What if, after the world ends, all that’s left is beauty?

Not decoration, or symmetry, or even geometric regularity, but a broken and fragmentary scattering of things that aren’t any more what they once were, objects that don’t quite fit, refuse that refuses to go away. What if these sorts of things turn out to have an enduring and alluring beauty, inviting us out into places that aren’t easy to get to?

I was thinking about the gorgeousness of the fractured world yesterday after the rainstorm as we gathered on Dead Horse Beach to talk about Posthuman Lear with Craig Dionne. The sand fleas pinched my neck as he described Utopia, animal bodies, and human desires. Plus King Lear, and science fiction.

Beach reading

Beach reading

Thou art the thing itself… (3.4)

The day started wet. A 5:30 am I was piloting the good ship Subaru down the highway, worried about getting everyone out to the beach. I spent the morning hitting refresh on the Weather Channel. Would the storm pass in time?

What is the cause of thunder? (3.4)

Intermittent clearing kept us on tenterhooks, but Craig and I convinced ourselves after a dry (damp) run out to the beach that we’d be OK in a light drizzle. The forecast rolled ambivalently through an early afternoon downpour into a clearing projection. Our collaborators from underwaternewyork.com elected, quite sensibly, to stay dry. But we still wanted to go.

Written in stone

Written in stone

Festina lente: “Make haste slowly” (Erasmus)

So we went. Four cars navigated the van Wyck, Jackie Robinson, Belt, and other traffic-clogged expressways. The path for our ten minute hike out to the beach had some standing water, but was negotiable even in my non-hiking shoes. The clouds pressed low and traffic hummed on the Marine Parkway Bridge behind us as we wandered the beach just after low tide, looking at glass, leather, plastic, the refuse of industrial modernity. It was beautiful, in a pained way.

Is this the promised end? (5.2) 2016-09-19-14-17-44

We leaned against a graffiti-painted fiberglass boat for Craig’s talk. As he ranged from sci fi to Shakespeare’s father’s illegal trade practices to “unaccommodated man,” his talk rippled over the beach. Counterpoint was provided by some Canada geese overhead, the cries of gulls, hum of automobile traffic, and the slow changing of the light at day’s end.

The talk ended precisely at sunset (6:58 pm, according to the Weather Channel), but in a few unrepeatable minutes before that, the drooping sun peaked below the daylong clouds and flamed rose-pink transcendence out across sand and sky. The light caught Craig’s hair and glinted across the shallow ripples of the incoming tide.

It’s a silly thing to say about a sunset, but in that moment I felt I’d never seen anything quite like it before. Roses, after the storm.

See better, Lear! (1.1) 2016-09-19-18-53-22

The day ended with lobster tacos at Clemente’s in Sheepshead Bay, and then a long drive through the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens dropping off the remaining Dead Horsers before I pointed my prow north toward home. What a day!

Thanks to all who came out, or followed along!

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Dead Horse Lear! (Sept 19)

learCome hear a four-hundred year old tragedy speak to twenty-first century environmental catastrophe! The storm-poetry will rage at low tide at Dead Horse Bay’s Glass Bottle Beach on Sept 19 at 5:30 pm!

Join me and the students in my Open King Lear grad seminar to walk this amazing beach, the site of a nineteenth-century landfill and horse rendering plant, with Professor Craig Dionne, author most recently of Posthuman Lear: Reading Shakespeare in the Anthropocene (Punctum Books, 2015).

We’ll look and listen to sounds of long-ago and still ongoing disasters, talk about how human bodies encounter hostile environments, and explore the boundaries of literary representation and ecological understanding. Professor Dionne will speak about how King Lear reimagines language and humanity in and after catastrophe.

Praise the world to the angel (Rilke)

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We’ll also be joined by St. John’s Professor Elizabeth Albert and the editors of underwaternewyork.com, who have recently collaborated on the gorgeous volume Silent Beaches, Untold Stories, which explores the forgotten history and artistic present of New York’s waterways.

Reason not the need! (Lear)

All are welcome! We’ll meet in the parking lot at Floyd Bennet Field / 50 Aviator Road and together walk the 15 min trail out to the beach.

Please contact Steve Mentz ([email protected]) if you’d like to join us!

Glass Bottle Beach

Glass Bottle Beach

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New York Theater (F16)

MobileUnitHamlet_headerSome of these dates might shift around, but I’ve got a rough schedule of plays that I’ll be bringing members of my election-season Shakespeare class to this fall in New York. It should be a great line up!

Th 9/22: Public Theater’s Mobile Unit Hamlet (7 pm, 425 Lafayette St, Manhattan)

Th 10/13: New York Shakespeare Exchange’s Lucrece (7:30 pm; Teatro Latea at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk #200, between Delancy and Rivington) Rape of Lucrece

Th 11/17: Red Bull’s Coriolanus (location and time tbd)

I’m also going to Ivo van HovKings-of-War_2000x762-3e’s four-and-a-half hour extravaganza Kings of War, a mashup of Henry V, all three parts of Henry VI, and Richard III, performed in Dutch at the BAM opera house on Nov 4 — but I’m not dragging my students to that one!

Please contact me if you’d like to come along!

 

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Globe 2016: Shrew and Macbeth

Last night put the bow on UK theater for this summer: 6 plays in eight nights, working around a couple WSC receptions and family vacation. The last two nights I was at the Globe, sitting down in that theater for the first time, since I usually buy the cheap yard tickets. The stage looks really great from the upper deck, it turns out.

ShrewAn Irish Shrew

I heard the Irish director Caroline Byrne on Saturday morning talk to the WSC about her production of Shrew, set during the Easter 1916 rising in Ireland. She talked about how Irish women had been airbrushed out of the history of 1916, and also out of the commemorations in 2016. She told the assembled academics that in this play directors get paid for Kate’s final speech, and also that she wanted her play to take a stand for equality.

I kept wondering how she would pull it off, given that the language of that long, complex, sometimes maddening speech celebrates subjection and passivity — “A woman moved is a fountain troubled” — and ends with Kate laying her hand beneath her husband’s foot. The most striking innovations of Byrne’s staging of Shrew spliced in an Irish liberty ballad that drew on Yeats’s “Easter 1916” into the text. Aofie Duffin’s fiery Kate opened and closed the play by singing the ballad, and I couldn’t help but think that in returning to it at the moment Kate’s long speech ended registered the production’s slight distrust of the early modern material. I like the idea of a performance of this speech that really makes a play for equality: it’s important that Kate lectures and dominates the other wives, that she wins a tidy sum for herself and Petruchio in the bet that, just maybe, Grumio has had time to tell her about offstage, and that she speaks the longest and most rhetorically compelling speech in the play. Can that be enough to redeem the speech in a feminist age? I’m still not sure, and this production didn’t quite let me find out.

Petruchio had lost his voice the night I saw the show, which was in fact the very last show of the run. Edward MacLiam carried himself well, but his growling laddish brutality wore thin pretty quickly. I’m somewhat attached to a reading of the play in which Petruchio finds in Kate’s wit and aggression a match for his own intelligence and lack of care for social norms — but this production played the misogyny pretty straight.

The most reliable bits in this show were the subplot and the servants. All the servant parts were played by women, thus emphasizing the patriarchal structure of the social world, but the servants were often able to resist, reconfigure, or otherwise re-route the power structures under which they served. In the tragic romance main plot, with its echoes of Irish revolutionary tragedy, that mobility was hard to find.

Wordless Macbethmacbeth

I have a strange feeling — perhaps more in the nature of a forlorn hope — that there may have been some compelling interpretive choices in Iqbal Khan’s staging of Macbeth. But the acting was so terrible — so frankly and shockingly incompetent at times — that it was hard to think about the stylized witches, the nameless boy who never spoke but ended up preceding Malcolm to the throne, and the interesting stage business with the center-stage pit and the yard. Or maybe I liked those things because they meant that at least for a while neither Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, nor Duncan were speaking?

I really don’t understand why these actors spoke so strangely, with widely varied pacing and at times meaning-destroying pauses between words. They rushed past such lines as “Unsex me here” and “Make the green one red” as if they had someplace they needed to be. I understand wanting to try to remake or individualize these old chestnuts, but in practice they just seemed erased.

The play was full of shouting, dearest chuck! I suppose we have to blame those sorts of things on the director, unless we assume he was distracted with his larger stylistic choices and just forgot to listen to his actors? Alas, I couldn’t quite mange that myself.

The silent child was never explained, but perhaps gestures toward Lady Macbeth’s lines about nursing (spoken at an incomprehensible roar). The boy’s presence on stage added some drama or at least mystery — but it didn’t add up to much in the end.

Oh well — not all productions work. I’d thought for a while that I’d never seen a bad production at the Globe, because the audience engagement pulled everything up to at least the level of good fun. Didn’t quite get there this time.

The Porter was great fun, and the Malcolm/Macduff scene was nicely played, as well as being a welcome break from the lead actors.

No plays for the rest of my travels — but some good things will be coming to New York in the fall!

 

 

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WSC 2016, Day 3: Alchemist and Faustus

alchemistWhat is theater if it’s not a con, a gull, a way of looking at things and people and seeing something other than what they are?

The Alchemist was Olivia’s and my favorite of this year’s Stratford plays. With a large, uniformly excellent cast headlined by Ken Nwosu as Face, Mark Lockyer at Subtle, and Siobhan McSweeny as Doll — the trio of reprobates who play while Master Lovewit is away — it’s the purest fun we’ve seen on stage so far. Olivia was especially taken by Joshua McCord’s Dapper, the lawyer’s clerk who at one point in the second half of the play was forgotten in a back room of the house until he chewed through his gag to remind Face that he was supposed to have an interview with the Faerie Queene. Doll’s cynical and magical turn did not disappoint. My favorite was probably Ian Bedford’s Sir Epicure Mammon, whose visions of global plenty — dolphin’s milk, rivers of gold, silver only for giving to beggars — distracted him even from his assignation with Doll. The half-dozen or so subplots crossed and converged in the fast-paced second act, with the return of formerly absent Lovewit eventually leading Face to resume his servant’s name, Jeremy, while Doll and Subtle hot-footed it over the back gate.

Face wasn’t quite done with us — he introduced the epilogue by flashing some RSC tickets, and counting up the total take in the house was that night. “Thirty-five quid each for the ground level,” he grinned. It came to quite a sum, though he didn’t reveal the full accounting, and he didn’t push the point too hard. We the audience were happy gulls, perhaps open-eyed gulls — but each time the curtain rises the money flows only one way, out of our wallets. It didn’t really darken a joyful production, but it left us thinking.

What is theater if it’s not a dream of power, a vision of unearthly beauty, a gamble that might be worth its price?faustus

Maria Aberg’s direction of Faustus was the most conceptually ambitious  of the four Stratford plays. Part dance, part fantasia, and occasionally a penetrating dive into ambition as an impossible dream, the play began with two actors facing each other, striking matches, and waiting to see whose will go out first. As I understand it, based partly on the wisdom of the pub, whoever’s match burns down first plays Faustus, and the other Mephistophilis. I don’t know if the actors can tip the scales or take turns somehow. We saw Sandry Grierson as Faustus and Oliver Ryan as Mephistophilis, though I kept imagining what it would have been like the other way round. Striking moments included the pageant of Seven Deadly Sins and, perhaps most of all, Faustus’s slow painting of the magical star-in-circle design onto the center of the stage floor, his labors standing in for the conversion of the scholarly books he tossed aside at the play’s opening into necromantic visions of power.

The other shocking bit was the appearance of perhaps 12-year old Jade Croot  as Helen of Troy, the final gift Faustus asks Mephistophilis to bring him. (UPDATE: I’ve been assured she is at least 16, as required by UK child labor laws, since she performs every night.) Croot is a young theatrical pro, with stage productions of Oliver, Grease, Les Mis, and TV’s Doctor Who to her credit already — but the staging n of a young girl as the greatest temptress in literary history was hard to watch, especially since I was sitting next to my own 13-year old daughter in the theater! The Helen-Faustus pas de deux was very carefully staged: she had lots of agency and stage power, and the dance ended up not eroticizing their relationship, and perhaps emphasizing that Faustus could not access anything like real love. At the end I wasn’t quite sure why Helen was a child, despite the power of the scene.

I did think that this Faustus, like last night’s Hamlet, was a play about deep & unquenchable loneliness. No one could touch either the Danish Prince or the German magus onstage. What did Faustus really want from Mephistophilis, as his hour neared and he grew more and more frantic? Human connection was the thing he could not even name, from the start of the play when he rejected all forms of non-magical learning to the drama’s end when his demon-servant came to claim Lucifer’s reward. Non-human Mephistophilis was all that remained to the doomed Doctor, and the kiss that fallen angel gave to the dying man came just after midnight, too late, too inhuman. That perhaps unfelt kiss made a powerful ending to the play, partly because the chance for real emotional fulfillment seems to have been just missed.

Heading for London today, where Shrew and Macbeth wait at the Globe!

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WSC, Day 2: Hamlet

RSC HamletPaapa Essiedu’s antic scenes as Hamlet were amazing. Powerful, graceful, physical, unpredictable, his presence at the heart of  the RSC’s anniversary-year Hamlet created real urgency and danger in what was (I must admit) a pretty long-feeling production. Once he put his antic disposition on, with the help of an inventive paint-smeared costume, he pulled away from the other actors into his own private manic dance.

It’s a play about a solitary melancholic, but I thought it was telling that only one of the two soldiers on watch in the first scene seemed to have met the Prince before. This Hamlet wasn’t easy to know. Ophelia showed us love letters and even an “H & O” hand-painted t-shirt, but she couldn’t reach him either.

In those mad moments and the soliloquies, Essiedu’s Hamlet was gorgeous and inventive, powerful to watch. I did wonder a bit about the old-fashioned “objective correlative” business, in that it was hard to believe that this Hamlet could have loved his father (or anyone) as much as he professed. In general, he seemed brilliant but loveless and deeply unattached: the eventual graveyard expostulation, “I loved Ophelia,” came across as a bit unconvincing. Who was there?

But perhaps that flatness emerged because the graveyard scene came after Hamlet replaced his madness with a red wool knit cap of sanity, having returned from the pirates, condemned his treacherous friends Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, and apparently believing his own Providentialist boilerplate about the fall of a sparrow. I tend to see this final Hamlet as still violent and unstable, but that wasn’t apparent in this production, at least not until the (quite striking and visually great) stick-fighting-as-swordplay scene.

Of the surrounding players, I though Gertrude was very weak and unconnected to the other figures on stage. (I admit I missed the closet scene, b/c I was bringing Olivia home at the interval. Too much nihilism for her!) Ophelia started well, in a winningly comic fashion with her father and brother, but her mad songs, which should be heart-wrenching, didn’t for me match Hamlet’s preceding insanity. The prince who was but mad in craft put her in shadow.

There was a moment in the final scene, when Laertes and Hamlet have been cut with venomed blades and Gertrude has drunk the poison, in which Claudius stood alone on stage, caught as his villainy was being revealed. I had the odd sensation that in that short gap of time, he should run: none of the wounded men could have caught him, and surely the guards would remain loyal to their sovereign. I spotted Clarence Smith, who played Claudius, at the pub after the show and almost asked him about it — but I figured that would have been a bit obnoxious. “Have your ever thought about just running offstage just before Hamlet gets up…?”

The other performance I loved in this production was Cyril Nri as Polonius. Some of the air that went out of the second half of the play for me had to do with missing his stage presence and (admittedly forced) cohesiveness. I’m becoming increasingly interested in Polonius as an alternative center in the play; he presents distinctive theories of acting, of genre, and of politics. Does that make me sound like the old suburban Dad that I am? Yesterday I liked Cloten, today Polonius. What is Stratford doing to me?

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WSC, Day 1: Cymbeline

The thought snuck up on me last night while I was watching. It’s not the sort of thing one likes to admit. Probably if I’d made it to the pub I’d have been argued out of it, but I needed to bring my daughter Olivia back to the B&B, and it was raining, and I wanted to be able to get up and swim this morning — which I did, despite lingering jet lag.

Maybe it’s just #slatepitchy and counter-intuitive, or an attempt to find some clarity in a wildly digressive production (paper dolls! dialogue in Latin, French, and Italian! Cymbeline as a Queen!), but I’ve never before seen a Cymbeline in which I was so sympathetic to Cloten. He actually underplayed his nativist faux-Brexit rhetoric, which uncomfortably transforms John of Gaunt’s rousing patriotism into small-minded farce. But — and perhaps this is testament to a somewhat uncentered show — watching last night I found Cloten’s politics felt equally as compelling (or not) as the bland internationalism of Posthumus and Caius Lucius. What, I wondered, if this play were really performed for Leave voters, or Trumpkins on holiday? Could Cloten be the failed hero? They didn’t go all the way there  last night, but I had the strange feeling that they weren’t that far from it.

It’s not possible to sympathize with Cloten all the way through. He’s a fool, an attempted murderer, and he dies aspiring to a rape he can never get himself into position to attempt. But, as Olivia reminded me, in his violence and misogyny he’s not very different from his rival Posthumus. Each of these two men thinks Innogen has chosen another. Posthumus reacts by ordering her death, Cloten by chasing her into Wales with intent to ravish. Why is it that we prefer the first suitor again?

Olivia also observed that last night’s Cloten had “nice hair.” I’m sure she and I are both responding to Marcus Griffeths’s oddly cast physical charisma, which made Cloten overshadow Posthumus. I imagine the RSC will find some better parts for him soon!

In my Cloten-centric speculation, I wonder if the play might suggest that both British chauvinism and Roman internationalism are bad? Not equally so, perhaps, but…

Olivia also observed that of Innogen’s suitors, the only one who took no for an answer was Iachimo, who never quite assaults or attacks her, despite his creepy leering while she’s asleep. Maybe, Olivia suggested, Imogen should dump both Posthumus and Cloten, smooch a bit with pretty Iachimo, and then run off into the woods and be a bad ass with her Welsh siblings. A Katniss Everdeen revision of Shakespeare?

The brother-and-sister pair of pastoral heroes, the elder of whom kills Cloten and tosses his bloody clod pole into a mountain stream, suggest that there are better nativisims than Cloten’s, or the 21c nativisms of assorted orange-maned clowns on either side of the Atlantic.  It struck me last night that the off-stage moment when Guideria/us cut off Cloten’s head without knowing his identity has a political subtext, in which a natural Britain decapitates the island’s false heir. The Welsh foresters who are here long-lost siblings seem better matches for Innogen than any of the courtly characters — except possibly for Caius Lucius, to whom she sidled up to toward the end of the very long final scene during which I lost sight of Posthumus entirely for some time.

Cloten wasn’t there, of course, since he died in the previous act. But Queen Cymbeline’s ambivalent back and forth with Rome, Britain’s military victory, the return of her heirs from their pastoral education, and the general mayhem of this play’s over-plottedness suggested — at least to me, at least a little bit — that we missed his awkward voicing of patriotism. Just a little bit.

I doubt that any staging of Cymbeline will ever want to go fully pro-Cloten. But amid the whirl of this messy production, I saw a different side of the buffoon. That, plus a wonderfully clear and moving performance by Bethan Culinane as Innogen, made a nice start to this week in Stratford.

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Ethan Lipton’s “Tumacho” at Clubbed Thumb

TumachoAs the US grapples with horrific evidence of our culture’s violent obsession with guns, Ethan Lipton’s hilarious and brilliant satirocomic Wild West musical, Tumacho, provides the perfect comic riposte. The show is closed now, after a super-short sold out run the Clubbed Thumb’s The Wild Project in the East Village. But I hope it re-opens someplace soon — it’s the play we need to see. I’m ready to go again!

A desolate sagebrush town has been depopulated by Big Bill Yardly, a black-dressed gunman played with an enthusiastic snarl by Danny Wolohan. Mayor Evans, played with equal parts sympathy and hypocrisy by John Ellison Conlee, can’t stop the violence and is thinking about skipping town. Doc Alonzo, played by Gibson Frazier, is tired of being covered in the blood of his town’s expiring citizens. Catalina, played by Celia Keenan-Bolger, has lost her parents to the gunman as a child and seeks “murderous bloody revenge.” So far, so archetypical.

Into this too-familiar landscape floats the demon Tumacho, a free-floating spirit of violence doomed to return to the town at uncertain intervals. Tumacho, who in his original human incarnation appears to have burned his true love alive after mistakenly thinking her false, represents the circularity of a culture built on violent retribution. Can the demon rid the town of gunslinger Bill? Would a town run by Tumacho — the name slyly insinuates both “too much” machismo and a culture in which you (“tu”) must always be macho — be better than Bill’s pueblo of horrors? Would anyone notice the difference?

Sara Krulwich / NY Times

Sara Krulwich / NY Times

My favorite scene was the early three-way standoff between gunman Bill, revenger Catalina, and Clem, the son of a rival gunman who’s arrived in town seeking to kill Big Bill in order to impress his now-retired father. All three listen to old man Sam’s doggerel prophecy:

When the streets run red with blood,

And the clouds are upside down,

Then the three-legged coyote howls,

For Tumacho’s back in town…

Each thinks: that could be me!

Has the gunman killed enough townspeople to merit the title Tumacho? Will newly-arrived Clem finally step into his daddy’s bloody shoes? Or will Catalina’s dedication to revenge her parents carry the day? Quien es mas tumacho?

I won’t spoil the gorgeously random twists and turns of the plot, except perhaps to say that Tumacho eventually occupies an unexpected body. And it will require all the town’s residents, including the halitosis-fueled Mayor, to send the demon packing.

On one side of the stage, Mike Brun plays guitar, electric bass, piano, and banjo, and the cast sings a series of original songs. The one I can’t get out of my head is “No Justice for the Dead,” sung as a duet between Catalina and the father of the gunslinger who challenged Big Bill in the opening scene. Part sentimental ballad and part comic tour-de-force (Catalina sings with a tongue swollen from waterless desert travel), the song gets at the hollow core of a culture of violence. What’s the point of shooting? What’s violence for?

Or, as a goofier send-up number near to the end has it, performed by a nearly full cast dressed as ramblin’ Saguaros —

Yes, it takes a little practice

To love a cactus…

Like Ben Brantlee in the Times, I loved this play. It’s a kind of hopalong Orestia, singing out the futility and injustice of our culture of violence. I hope it’ll appear again somewhere soon!

 

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Some of a Thousand Words by Wendy Whalen #Artsideas16

WendyAs this year’s Festival of Arts and Ideas heads into the home-stretch, we enjoyed the world premiere of ballerina Wendy Whalen’s new modern dance performance, “Some of a Thousand Words,” done in collaboration with choreographer Brian Brooks and music by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Once again, I’m at a loss for vocabulary.

Whalen is the former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, and Brooks is a modern choreographer with whom she’s been working since 2012. Their Philip Glass-accompanied piece “Fall Falls” debuted in Vail in 2013; the show in New Haven contains that piece and four others, including a stunning silent dance.

I don’t have words for the gorgeous abstraction of the dances, the impossible length and reach of the dancers’ arms and legs, or the clever playfulness of especially the dance that involved two chairs, off of which each dancer would slouch and impinge upon the other’s space.

I’ll remember two moments especially. The first is Whalen repeatedly and gently falling onto Brooks’s back during “Fall Falls,” with her body remaining perfectly still until he caught her weight on his shoulders. For a moment she remained perfectly straight, as if weightless. Isn’t weightlessness — flight — the dream of dance?

The other moment I’ll remember was watching her walk slowly across the stage, after an astounding series of solo moves and turns. She’d taught the audience to expect miracles, but she was now just walking across the stage, not flying or turning or jumping. Not yet.

Just two more days of Festival 2016!

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The Square Root of Three Sisters (Dmitry Krymov Lab) #Artsideas16

Shaunette Wilson as Olga

Shaunette Wilson as Olga

I almost didn’t make it to this one. Alinor was in NYC, having gotten last-minute tickets to some Ham- play (not the one playing right now at Shakespeare on the Sound), and Olivia wanted a night off with Harry Potter. But I’ve seen a little bit of Dmitry Krymov before — the bizarre mash-up of ballet, puppetry, and pantomime that he called A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It), which I saw in Stratford in 2012 — so I flew solo to this world premiere riff on Chekov’s “Three Sisters.” It’s true that I’ve never seen that play and haven’t read it since college. But how often do you get a chance to see something like this?

The show started with the lights on and the cast working together to “lay the scene” with flat rectangles of cardboard held in place by masking tape. Assembling the set together was an important part of the staging, and perhaps the first quarter of the show consisted of Aubie Merrylees stage-managing the assembly of all the elements of a Chekov setting: the father’s grave, the houses of the sisters, the lake, the bar, the soldier’s barracks, a birch grove, a train. Some of the elements, including Merrylees’s eventual part of the writer Trigorin, appear from other Chekov plays, in his case The Seagull.

The cast is students and recent graduates from Yale Drama School, which institution co-produced the show. The actors were directed by Krymov and his Lab. The young Americans couldn’t quite do everything that the Russian cast did in 2012, though they were strong and worked well together.

One highlight was a solo scene by Shaunette Wilson, playing Olga the unmarried schoolteacher and eldest sister. She circled a table that had been used for a dinner scene earlier. Picking up each item from the table, she would name it: “This is a cup. This is a spoon. This is a saucer.” In the same matter-of-fact tone, she’d say, “I don’t need love. People marry for duty only. This is a knife.” As the scene swelled, she started mis-naming the cutlery. “This is a cup,” she’d say, holding the knife. “I don’t need love.” The subtext smashed the dishes and cleared the table in short order.

I suspect if I knew Chekov better I’d have seen more. Like Krymov’s Midsummer, the performance seemed animated by its commentary on the classical dramatic canon. The booming voice of an unseen director intruded at times, at one point telling Wilson to leave the stage because he wanted “another Olga,” who turned out to be Merrylees in drag. Wilson resisted going, and plead her case to the audience that “I was good, right?” She was, we all agreed. In another memorable moment, audience members were brought up on stage to waltz with the cast. (Alas, I hadn’t paid extra to sit in front!)

The title of the play takes the square root of three. This operation transforms the classic dramatic triangle into an irrational number. That strikes me as a pretty good metaphor for Krymov’s method.