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Showing posts from March, 2017

Chess Match No. 5

The composer John Cage died in 1992. His music was so enormously creative as to be revolutionary. Aside from his music, he left behind the texts of many public conversations that reveal his musical and philosophical ideas. Anne Bogart, one of the Co-Artistic Directors of SITI Company, has used this material in conceiving a production called Chess Match No. 5, which she’s created with SITI Company and which has been presented by Abingdon Theatre Company.
Jocelyn Clarke has arranged the texts of Mr. Cage’s conversations as dialogue for two characters, named in the program simply as He and She. He clearly represents Mr. Cage. He’s the master, the teacher, and most of the dialogue consists of her questions and his answers. To be sure, He occasionally asks her a question, but he is clearly the maestro. The conversation turns on music and philosophy.
At the top of the show Mr. Bond enters and, after several moments, says “What am I doing?” The question echoes for the rest of the cryptic play…

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Courtroom dramas can’t be expected to have much plot. In plot, each piece of action leads to the next. In a courtroom, witnesses are called in a series without dramatic cause.
And so we can’t expect Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot to have any sort of through line. It’s a courtroom drama, presented by La MaMa, in which Judas Iscariot is on trial. It’s not really about his last days. In fact, he isn’t on stage very much.
It’s not clear why Judas is on trial after all this time. The two attorneys are, after all, our contemporaries. But Saint Monica tells us that it was her doing to bring him into court.
The trial takes place in Hope, in “downtown Purgatory”. Many witnesses take the stand in this strange courtroom, including Caiaphas the Elder, Pontius Pilate, Sigmund Freud, Mother Theresa, Mary Magdalen and a few of Apostles. It’s really an imaginative trip we’re taking. Each one reflects an aspect of the question of Judas’ guilt, and the result is a sort of quilt…

C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert

C.S. Lewis lived between 1898 and 1963. He’s best known for his works of fiction such as The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia, although his non-fiction work is arguably more important. He ranks among the foremost 20th-century Christian apologists and theologians.
Max McLean has written a terrific solo show in which he presents Lewis in his study at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1950, C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert. Mr. MacLean is the show’s actor, and he’s co-directed it with Ken Denison.

The script details Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, delineating the transformation in discrete steps. Lewis begins with his childhood in Belfast: “Mother’s death produced in me a deeply engrained pessimism,” he tells us. And “At 13 I ceased to be a Christian. At that age one scarcely notices.” He was confirmed in The Church of Ireland “in total disbelief.”
The script presents us with the structure of Lewis’ life – his time at Oxford, his enlisting in the arm…

The Mountain Bird

In 1859 Henrik Ibsen wrote an opera libretto – more precisely, the beginning of an opera libretto. He never finished it. It’s titled The Mountain Bird (in Norwegian, Fjeldfuglen), and it was produced for the first time in 2009 by a Norwegian company, Grusomhetens Teater, with contemporary music by Filip Sande.
The company presented the production at La MaMa recently, in Norwegian with English surtitles. What a brilliant production! The work is based on Artaud and Grotowski, with minimalist set and elegant, stylized acting. Its actors are masters of expressive and repeated gesture.
There are eight actors in this opera, and only two musicians. The musicians play traditional Scandinavian instruments: the fiddle, the langeleik (which is like a zither or dulcimer), a drum, the glockenspiel and the flute. It’s a great delight to hear singers singing with next to no instrumentation, and there are choral pieces sung a capella.
Ibsen’s libretto is strictly in the vein of 19th-cventury romanticism…