LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
Mask work reduces the craft of acting to the essential elements of pose and gesture. That’s all you get when there are no words or facial expressions. Watching a piece as declarative, accessible, and affecting as Kulunka Teatro’s André & Dorine, one wonders why we allow words to clutter our stages at all. As it plays for only two more performances in Los Angeles, the need for action is acute. Unless you’re having a baby Saturday night, see this show; if you are, see it Sunday.
This Basque troupe has been performing the three-actor, many-character play for a couple of years now, all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. It should go to other planets. If this theater piece were the first thing alien civilizations saw of our species, it would introduce us more accurately than any speech or song I can imagine. Clammy phrases like “illumination of the human condition” and “poignant insight” and “deeply moving” dribble from a stagnant pen when I try to describe the event of witnessing such awesome mastery of vision and technique.
Essentially the story of a couple in decline, of their courtship, of how their family and careers have shaped their personalities and souls, of how a life lifts and lowers each of us, of the quest for love and the agony of its capture, André & Dorine may be the most difficult show I’ve ever experienced. It is so well-executed that for a period of about ten minutes in the middle, I just wanted it to end so that I could stop feeling so acutely. The sensation has something to do with the numbness that comes of enduring the vast quantity of mediocre entertainment that comes our way. One gets used to feeling little; one tries, in fact, to avoid feeling angry or depressed about the narrow, shallow, familiar explorations of life on Earth that constitute ninety percent of what’s on our stages and our screens. To see something like this, though, is to be slapped into painful, joyous wakefulness. It is like being born to the knowledge of good and evil. This is the fruition of the promise of art.
Jose Dault, Garbiñe Insausti, and Edu Cárcamo parade strenuously and without error through ninety minutes’ excruciating exactness, wearing endearingly molded whole-head masks in which a tilt of a single degree means the difference between blunder and successful communication. Ms. Insausti made the masks herself, and so it is perhaps not surprising that hers is the outstanding performance of three flawless performances: her exquisite subtlety of movement is so specific and grounded that it would read equally well on film or in a stadium. These actors should be studied minutely by anyone interested in learning how to display emotion and idea before an audience.
So should their director, Iñaki Rikarte, be analyzed by those wishing to emulate good habits of stage generalship. Efficiency is not a mere virtue but a virtuosity with this man; there are two dozen plays currently running in Los Angeles whose directors require lessons in the economy of scene changes at the feet of Mr. Rikarte. He has the benefit of expert assistance from Laura Gómez (set), Carlos Samaniego (lighting), Ikerne Giménez (costumes), and Yayo Cáceres (composer). The play itself, written by the cast, their director, and assistant director Rolando San Martín, veers slightly broad at scattered moments, as international touring spectacles will. It’s a bit earthy at times. But the resonance and transport of this phenomenal production are more profound than the grandest aspirations of most “serious plays” you will see in your life.
photos by Gonzalo Jerez “El Selenita”
André & Dorine
co-produced by Latino Theatre Company in association with the Albuquerque Journal Theatre
scheduled to end at Los Angeles Theatre Center on September 9, 2012
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit http://www.thelatc.org
then plays The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side YMCA in NYC
September 13-16, 2012
tickets available at http://www.theatermania.com or via phone at 866-811-4111
for more info on future tour dates, visit http://www.kulunkateatro.com