Saturday, December 19, 2009


It's been almost a year since I began daily postings on this site.  Actually, I thought it was a year from today -but a few days were skipped in late December.

In any event, I wanted to celebrate with a post seemingly unrelated to animation.

This week, my friend Kristin Worrell (who's done some audio for us in the past) invited me to her theater company's show at The Kitchen.

After many years, I've grown a distrust of theater.  The form was the first art that I loved, before movies or music or radio or anything else.  Seeing so much bad, bad work, though, would make any person reticent to spend 90 minutes squirming on an uncomfortable chair in the dark.

I've also learned to trust bright people.  Generally, (the massive shortcomings of the current administration's first year notwithstanding) they won't give you a bum steer.

Sometimes they'll give you a Golden Calf.

The Nature Theater of Oklahoma's "Romeo & Juliet" at The Kitchen is, at the very least, some Blue Ribbon Bull.

Those who've been fortunate enough to see "Sita Sings the Blues" (New Yorkers will again have the opportunity during its upcoming run at IFC) will recall the three characters trying to recount the story of Rama and Sita as they remember it. 

This production jumps from a similar conceit.  The director built monologues from phone calls of people recounting from memory Shakespeare's story.  The confessional phone call being a staple of another of America's great artists, Joe Frank.

There's comedy -like in "Sita Sings the Blues" -but the production quickly transcends comedy.  We're rooting for the person to get the story right, wanting to help them out.  This creates a profound, and wholly theatrical, intellectual engagement with the audience.  We follow their trains of thought into personal, illuminating, and sometimes frightening places.

The stylized performance of the actors, their self-consciously "Shakespearean" presentations set in Summer Stock stylized mock proscenium simultaneously obscure and explicate the original script.  The result is akin to what good animation does, it references the way something behaves and then shows it to you in strange way that seems perfectly natural.

Personal stories, layers of literary irony, comedy, romance.  This is a moving and magical production.  Each moment is beautifully orchestrated, although I thought the third act was a little too long even that was saved by the perfect little music cue (once you learn the source of the music, the brilliance is eye popping).  The epilogue, after an evening of tangents and botched recollections can bring you to tears.

It's reminder of why I loved theater, and a prod at what the technique of animation can do with the right creative intent.

The show runs until January 16th.

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