KPBS AIRDATE: April 15, 2005
Credit what you will – the gods, Fate, Spirit or coincidence. But unforeseen, maybe even pre-ordained, events change lives. From mythical to cultural to historical, ethereal things are happening onstage.
In Nicholas Wright’s speculative, titillating “Vincent in Brixton,” the hotheaded Vincent van Gogh may foreshadow the impulsive genius of the suicidal, ear-slicing future. It isn’t known what actually happened in the 1870s, when the young, impetuous and unsuccessful art dealer sojourned briefly in the seedy London suburb of Brixton. But clandestine love, with an older woman who ignited the painter’s creativity, forms the tender tale of Wright’s Olivier Award-winning hypothetical drama. Under the marvelous, finely nuanced direction of Rick Seer, the Old Globe production is quite wonderful – beautifully designed and impeccably acted. Graham Hamilton is a vigorous and irresistible van Gogh, and Robin Pearson Rose brings a luminous sadness to his repressed and depressive landlady. The other three actors lend marvelous support. There are gorgeous little hints of van Gogh paintings to come, and the tantalizing suggestion that this woman, twice his age, gave Vincent both his sexual and artistic awakening. If true, it was more than happenstance; it was Destiny.
Fate takes a more mystical turn in “Woman from the Other Side of the World,” a Filipino story of healing and heritage, New World modernity vs. Old Country tradition. In her fascinating drama, playwright Linda Faigao Hall introduces us to a single mother and her precocious 10 year-old son. They’re cut off from their history and identity, until they’re sent a yaya, or nanny, from the Philippines. Long-held secrets are revealed after a heart-stopping exorcism, and only then can love flourish. At Asian American Repertory Theatre, director and sound designer George Yé lends the production an eerie other-worldliness. Twelve year-old Kevin Belisario is terrific as young Jason, excellent with arnis, the stick-wielding martial arts form he only learned a month before the show. Dulce Solis is magical and riveting as the yaya, a spiritualist who sees pain and changes lives.
But there are no transformations like those described by Ovid in his “Metamorphoses,” 15 volumes of Latin verse, written in 8 A.D., chronicling Greek gods and Roman heroes. Three years ago, acclaimed, experimental director Mary Zimmerman spun theater gold from some of those stories. When her brilliant “Metamorphoses” hit Broadway, Zimmerman won a Tony Award for her dazzling production, set in and around a large pool of water. Lamb’s Players’ local premiere is also striking: aptly aquatic, convincingly acted by a chameleon ensemble, beautifully costumed and inventively directed (by Robert Smyth). The play offers provocative and contemporary retellings of ancient myths that give compelling, poetic testimony to the power of transformation and the transforming power of love.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.