14 November, 2009

Theater: Robert Wilson - Quartett

Theater: Robert Wilson - Quartett

November 12, 2009
Brooklyn Academy of Music - Harvey Theater
Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe production, starring Isabelle Huppert

NY Times review

How do you "review" the collaboration between a playwright and a director who outdo each other in deconstruction? AND, how do you review Robert Wilson ((classical fans are most likely to know him as the director of Einstein on the Beach, which employs one of Philip Glass' greatest scores) at all? Well, I think the NYT theater critic has done a brilliant job here. For myself, I'd just add some thoughts of my own and provide some links. Who knows, perhaps one day the play shall travel to HK?

To begin to comprehend the whole thing, even to read the NYT review, it is necessary to have some familiarity with the original novel Les Liaisons Dangereuse, from which this play is derived ("pilfered" is perhaps just as appropriate a word metaphorically). In the wikipedia link you shall note that several films have been made to the original story. Chinese are most likely more familiar with the Korean and Steven Frears remakes. Should you have time, check out the original film, "period" Roger Vadim (Babarella is likely his most well known film), which incidentally employs Thelonious Monk's music to great effect.

It goes without saying Wilson's production is visually stunning as much as it is austere. Most bewildering was the effect of role change, when the voice stiffens up or softens to accomodate. This is made more complicated by deliberate manipulation of the amplified voice, adding elements of uncertainty and bestiality by turns. I love the story and have watched all three films before, yet I could not most of the time make out whether the woman or the man was behind the spoken lines. One just give in to the augmented effect of music and thetrical effects on words.

In the end I think the contribution of the playright is very little, and I even wonder about its quality. I personally do not think his fragmentation adds much to the original story. What it did provide was a lot of "obscenities" in the frequency the anatomical parts and some parts of the sexual act were impassionately detailed. No wonder there was a small but constant trikling out of the audience.

A passing mention on the mesmerizing actress Isabelle Huppert, who is probably best known in Aisa for her more recent film The Piano Teacher. I first encountered her in Claude Chabrol's wonderful Violette Noziere. How time flies.

I greatly enjoyed the score by Michael Galasso, who had just died. You may know him as contributor to the film scores of 重慶森林 and 花樣年華.

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