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A CurtainUp Review
Wooster Group's Poor Theatre
This writer recognized the mirroring technique the Group experienced in a workshop they led (and I took) at the University of California Berkeley 20-something years ago. In the workshop LeCompte stood behind me and we mirrored each other's movements while looking in a mirror.
In Poor Theatre, Part One, a tiny video plays Grotowski's production Acropolis while the four cast members mimic and interpret it in the foreground. The technicians sitting at the side of the stage operating sound and light are also on stage as depicted in two video screens much larger than the little one playing the source material. The audience is also represented by a middle-aged woman listening politely but uncomprehendingly in the foreground of the tiny Acropolis video.
Part One begins with a video of the group's initial reaction to the Acropolis video of as they mime the actors in their New York Performing Garage. We follow them on a visit to Grotowski's Theater Laboratorium in Poland. The Acropolis segment is first translated from Polish by Ari Fliakos for the group, then performed, principally by Fliakos as Troy's suffering King Priam and Kate Valk singing as the prophetess Cassandra.
Director LeCompte appears on video screen as a critic who asks actress Sheena See why Acropolis is being done in Polish. See doesn't answer directly but the final segment, which equates Max Ernst's obsession with rubbings of the grooves and grains of wood floors with the parquet floors in Grotowski's Polish studio, projects a beautiful universal answer to that small pragmatic question.
Part II is funnier and more physical but rather less successful in expressing tmodern dancer William Forsythe's work, perhaps because this really isnt a company of dancers. Although Scott Shepherd as Forsyth explains the director's conviction that conventional choreography is simply a channel for the desire to dance. Wwe're fortunate to catch glimpses of the expressive grace of the real William Forsythe in the videos that line the stage.
The two parts have one statement in common. Grotowski's Acropolis contains the line, "Suffering ate your face." The Forsythe segment uses a cowboy movie as a springboard for a dance entitled "I'm Gonna Shoot Your Face Off."
The Wooster Group's mandate is to dispense with fašade, to strip theatre down to its quantum physics particles, to let the audience use artists' inspirations for its own construct. It is the passion and joy with which they fulfill this mandate that makes them unique.
LeCompte says she's going to retire and write a book. We'll read it but there's nothing like seeing it.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. >Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
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