Frank Episale is an editor, writer, educator, and theatre artist living and working in Brooklyn. He holds a BFA from New York University, an MA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and an MPhil from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. This is his (infrequently updated) blog. He's pretty google-able, if you'd like to know more.

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Friday
Feb262010

Greek To Me

This week's CUNY Advocate includes my reviews of Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts's Medea and Its Double and International Wow Company's Auto Da Fe, excerpted below.

[There are a few clumsy passages, I'm afraid; I found both of these shows tricky to write about and didn't give myself enough time to edit.]

 

The concept of Medea and Its Double is to split the title character literally into two parts: the (jealous) lover and the (loving) mother, thus physicalizing Medea’s internal struggle and making the narrative more about her anguish than her crimes. Director Hyoung-Taek Limb adapted the story from Euripides, but only kept a fraction of the original text. In keeping with his company’s mission, Limb and his cast incorporate elements of Viewpoints and Grotowski tech­niques (which he picked up while an MFA student at Columbia) as well as elements from “traditional” Korean forms rang ing from martial arts to p’ansori to masked forms like t’alch’um and ogwang-dae.[...]
Photo by Zita BradleyIt’s impossible for me to judge the quality of Limb’s textual adaptation, but it seems clear that his work with the per­formers is his real accomplishment here. While the staging is reminiscent of work from Joseph Chaiken, Anne Bog­art, and other luminaries of the Western avant-garde, this Medea, ultimately, is one that could only have been cre­ated by this company. That specificity, that commit ment to growing a piece of theatre from the bodies and personali­ties of the performers rather than mapping it on to them, is what renders Medea and Its Double more than the sum of its parts. [...]

Masataka Matsuda’s dense, difficult [Auto Da Fe] is a meditation on history as an act of erasure, of creative forgetting. Set outside of time in a place called the “History Processing Center,” the play finds Odysseus (or a version of him) abandoning the battlefield and seeking a kind of peace. [...] To transform war into history, workers at the Processing Center shuffle papers, bathe soldiers, write articles, sing ballads, cart files, and tell stories. Little by little, the present recedes, trauma becomes mythology, and entire cultures are erased in the service of a grand narrative.

My own response [to this production] was a mixture of admiration and frustration. International WOW’s aesthetic ambition and political engagement remainPhotos by Piotr Redlinksi worthy of praise, but their work [here is] intellectually and emotionally muddled, [exhibiting] a lack of conceptual and intellectual rigor. [Director Josh] Fox clearly has a knack for eliciting incredible commitment from a large cast but, thirteen years after the company’s debut, and nine years since they garnered attention with one of the first theatrical responses to 9/11, his work doesn't seem to have developed much beyond its initial (considerable) promise. 

 

Read the full review here.

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