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FALSCH Rene Kalisky Directed by Antoine Vitez Theatre National de Chaillot (France) Judith Gershman In Europe, while Pina Bausch stretches the vocabulary of dance, coloring it with moments of theatre or performance art, Antoine Vitez is doing the opposite , pushing theatre out of'its boundaries, and actors out of their traditional roles of interpreters of characters. In short, adding elements of dance and performance art to theatre. He does this in his version of Falsch, the last play of Rene Kalisky, who died recently. Though the play has interesting formal elements, it is basically an example of conventional playwriting. Vitez, while respecting Kalisky's ideas (Vitez has directed two other plays of his: Le Pique-nique de Claretta and Dave au bord de mer), has exploded the conventions, transformed staging into choreography, acting into movement, dramatic monologues into rapping and character portrayal into the expression of the actor's own stage persona . Kalisky's play tells the stories within the story of the Faisch family, deported by the Nazis from Berlin in 1938. Some of them flee to New York, some eventually to Israel, most die in a concentration camp. Joseph, the youngest son, now middle-aged, is stricken with a heart attack on a New York City street; the faces that swim around him are those of his family. Is it they who call him or Joseph who rejoins them in a dream? In any case, the play is a Jewish family reunion, a family photograph with each member caught at the age of his death. So the son is older than the father. All are gathered: the parents, the aunts and uncles, the twins who escaped to New York (one a painter, the other, an actor, whose sad fate was to play Nazi officers in American war films), Joseph's gentile mistress, and the son who died the youngest, at 17, who was to be an orchestra conductor. He will act as disc jockey for the festivities. For the play is a Jewish wedding-Bar Mitzvah-High Holy Day all combined. A tender reunion punctuated by confessions , betrayals, recriminations-in short, the stories within the story. Vitez stages this on a vast dance floor, surrounded by white walls at jarring angles (the set is by Yannis Kokkos), lit by Patrice Trottier's vibrant disco colors that create the highlights and shadows of each story. The music is aggressively disco (the elders shout repeatedly for it to be lowered) and the play is acted, danced, rapped, at an astonishing pace. The melodrama is elegantly staged so that we are swept away by the rhythm of the emotions that pass before us, and never feel the tedium of the convention. Years full 84 0 CD a; of images flash by; Vitez lets the home movies flow, then breaks them sharply with a sudden spotlight that catches an actor and forces him to speak: each monologue becomes a jazz solo. Strobe effect without the strobe light. Close-up on the actor, prisoner of the spotlight, but free to improvise on the themes of his character. The past becomes urgently present. And we feel the poignancy of the pilgrimage from Europe to the New World that the Jews were forced to make in order to survive; hot music and colors clash against the pitiful attempts to keep tradition alive-even in death. The most impressive aspect of the production, in a country where actors receive little or no training in body movement, is the manner in which every motion, gesture or dance step is linked emotionally and dramaturgically with the text. It is this which takes the production out of the realm of conventional theatre and makes the play breathe with the spirit of something very new-in fresh air, as it were. Arthur Holmberg writes frequently for PAJ. Rosette Lamont is a Contributing Editor to PAJ. Judith Gershman is a playwright and translator. 85 ...


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