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You are here : TLT History Timeline » 1990 European Tour

1990 European Tour

The Tablets/ I and I

1990 european tour malaga flyer

1990 la stampa review italian

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The Living Theatre   
Satanic verses are announced in the Prologue, but there will be no scandal this time. After 20 years the legendary Living Theatre of New York, which has long flown the flag of the abolition of the boundaries between theater and life, between art and politics, is now making a guest appearance in Berlin. At the RA.M.M.ZATA the troupe, newly refounded by Judith Malina after the death of Julian Beck, is presenting its version of Else Lasker-Schuüler’s I and I.

      The audience is seated at the Cafe Gehenna around whose tables hard-working demonesses wrap their tails. The hell-play created by The Poet, the narrator who is the alter-ego of Lasker-Schuüler, takes place on several levels. The Poet tosses together various characters out of German culture and history. Faust and Mephisto meet with a delegation of Nazi bigwigs, the Ritz Brothers enact the interplay of good and evil through slapstick numbers... the procuress, Marthe Schwerdtlein, the idol Baal, and King David plucking at his lyre round out the bizarre panopticon.

      The play, created in 1941 during her Palestinian exile, is Else Lasker-Schuüler’s final accounting with Nazi Germany, which she sends into annihilation with hellish pleasure. The play’s autobiographical aspect is presented through the character of The Poet, for whom the heart’s stage becomes the world stage. But I and I is also a play about atonement and liberation achieved through a messianic hopefulness.

      The Living Theatre plays the hell spectacle as bouncy popular theater — the physical action is emphasized and there is plenty of highly-pitched facial and vocal expression. A1 first, the tempo of the staging and the music created by Carlo Altomare seem to allow for no conscious deliberation.

      Judith Malina’s casting of several actors of color in important roles makes sense throughout. The Poet, played by Sheila Dabney, is anything but a broken woman. Her speeches are not complaints but accusations.

      Michael Saint Clair is probably the most seductive Mephisto ever to appear on a German stage. In his scanty leather costume, he dances expert circles around the brooding Faust, his hips rotating lasciviously as he seems to ask, “Can love be sin?" And yet when at the happy ending the whole ensemble turns to the public and sings ardently, “I love you,” it is a heartfelt hymn that greets us and no longer a challenge to tear our clothes off immediately. No, we have gone beyond those crazy times!
—    Sandra Luzina    


(Turin, Italy)
July 19, 1990


At the Chieri Festival
The Legendary Troupe of the Theatrical Revolution
Proves To Be More Alive Than Ever

THUS THE LIVING THEATRE RECREATED MAN AND HISTORY

Bravos and Thunderous Applause for I and I and The Tablets

      There was a bit of apprehension in the air upon the return of The Living Theatre to Italy. It would not be the first time that a famous company of the past, an authentic legend of the theatrical revolution, the head of an artistic movement, the inventor of a style, returning to public attention after years of absence or silence, showed itself to be merely a tired shadow of itself. Legitimate, therefore, the doubt and curiosity surrounding the arrival of this company, which like few others has had a profound impact on the theatrical history of the twentieth century. But The Living Theatre, unlike so many of its colleagues and fellow travelers, did not disappoint its audience, in fact, it took them by surprise at the Chieri Festival with two productions, I and I and The Tablets by Else Lasker-Schüler, directed by Judith Malina, and The Tab1ets by Armand Schwerner, adapted and directed by Hanon Reznikov, who since the death of Julian Beck, co-founder with Malina of the group, has become one of the driving forces of The Living Theatre.

      It would be difficult to imagine two more dissimilar productions, rooted in very different styles and epochs I and I is an expressionist cabaret directly descended from the 1920’s and 30’s; the play brings us back to the artistic origins of the company and especially to those of Judith Malina, whose German background is evident as she transforms and passes on the lessons of Piscator and Brecht. The Tablets is part of that current of spirituality, sexuality and nature—consciousness which has characterized the recent work of The Living Theatre.

      It is not easy to say which of the two productions is more motivated and sincere. Those who, by dint of age, have a longer memory will find in I and I a brilliant, sarcastic and subversive form of theater. Else Lasker—Schüler sets her very personal vision of Faust at the “Cafe Gehenna”. Here “the divine Doctor” is the alter ego of Mephistopheles; they are the two halves of the same person (thus the title). They find themselves in a hell—bar where the spectators are seated at little tables, waited on by he— and she-devils who incarnate a luciferian variation of Playboy Bunnies. Among the attractions of the night-spot are the comic trio, the Ritz Brothers, the poet herself in a floppy hat, the god Baal, the goddess Psyche; all are directed through their transformations by the director Max Reinhardt, who appears in a black suit and white silk scarf.

      The birth of Nazism is enacted in this cabaret lit by tiny red lights. Goebbels, Goering, Hess and their comrades are seated at a table, intent on getting roaring drunk. Suddenly a naked man with a shaven head arrives on stage, hanging upside down inside a cage. He is the symbol of the persecuted Jew, victim of the violent attacks of the Nazis, who leap to their feet when Hitler appears and continue to offer their stiff-armed salutes even as they are swallowed up by the flames of hell, which palpitate around them like the waves of the sea. Above all of them, Faust and Mephisto debate the problems of God and of knowledge, recognizing themselves to be of the same flesh. The inevitable, though far from scandalous consequence is that they are in love, and together, at the height of revelation, they attain salvation in paradise.

      If, albeit because of Its richness of invention and of its exceedingly beautiful use of music, I and I seems at times to slow down a bit and to seem uneasy in a scenic space which is perhaps too large, If The Tablets has a very concentrated nucleus of action and a steel-tight structure. It is a sophisticated and very corporal play. Imagine a scholar at work deciphering a series of Sumerian tablets which detail through ambiguity, lacunae and obscurity the history of the humanity’s movement toward the recognition of God, of love, of sex and of nature. The director, Hanon Reznikov (who here also plays the role of Scholar-Translator), has had the wonderful idea to transform the bodies of the actors into the tablets themselves. Individually and in chorus, they incarnate in turn the experience of divinity, of love, of sex, of violence and of nature.

      The Living Theatre here reaches for a synthesis of body and word by means of theatrical movement that often becomes dance, mixing with the public and reaching that mysterious point where the great myths of humanity, the fragility of its experience, and the confusion of history all converge. It is no accident that the translator, temporarily blinded like Homer and attempting to catalogue his certainties, makes calamitous errors: he mistakes a head of hair for a head of lettuce, a woman’s breast for a stone.

      For the many young people crowded into the courtyard of Collegio San Filipo it was a revelation. In the end, the bravos and applause seemed inexhaustible and the entire company was clearly moved. Today, they will leave for Germany.

                         - Osvaldo Guerrieri



1990 der tagespiegel review


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The Living Theatre   
I and I     
Der Tagesspiegel
(Berlin, Germany)
August 11, 1990


SATANIC VERSES
Living Theatre with Lasker-Schuüler’s I and I at the RA.M.M.ZATA

Satanic verses are announced in the Prologue, but there will be no scandal this time. After 20 years the legendary Living Theatre of New York, which has long flown the flag of the abolition of the boundaries between theater and life, between art and politics, is now making a guest appearance in Berlin. At the RA.M.M.ZATA the troupe, newly refounded by Judith Malina after the death of Julian Beck, is presenting its version of Else Lasker-Schuüler’s I and I.

      The audience is seated at the Cafe Gehenna around whose tables hard-working demonesses wrap their tails. The hell-play created by The Poet, the narrator who is the alter-ego of Lasker-Schuüler, takes place on several levels. The Poet tosses together various characters out of German culture and history. Faust and Mephisto meet with a delegation of Nazi bigwigs, the Ritz Brothers enact the interplay of good and evil through slapstick numbers... the procuress, Marthe Schwerdtlein, the idol Baal, and King David plucking at his lyre round out the bizarre panopticon.

      The play, created in 1941 during her Palestinian exile, is Else Lasker-Schuüler’s final accounting with Nazi Germany, which she sends into annihilation with hellish pleasure. The play’s autobiographical aspect is presented through the character of The Poet, for whom the heart’s stage becomes the world stage. But I and I is also a play about atonement and liberation achieved through a messianic hopefulness.

      The Living Theatre plays the hell spectacle as bouncy popular theater — the physical action is emphasized and there is plenty of highly-pitched facial and vocal expression. A1 first, the tempo of the staging and the music created by Carlo Altomare seem to allow for no conscious deliberation.

      Judith Malina’s casting of several actors of color in important roles makes sense throughout. The Poet, played by Sheila Dabney, is anything but a broken woman. Her speeches are not complaints but accusations.

      Michael Saint Clair is probably the most seductive Mephisto ever to appear on a German stage. In his scanty leather costume, he dances expert circles around the brooding Faust, his hips rotating lasciviously as he seems to ask, “Can love be sin?" And yet when at the happy ending the whole ensemble turns to the public and sings ardently, “I love you,” it is a heartfelt hymn that greets us and no longer a challenge to tear our clothes off immediately. No, we have gone beyond those crazy times!
—    Sandra Luzina    


1990 europe bergamo review-a


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The Living Theatre   
The Tablets     
L’Eco dl Bergamo
(Bergamo, Italy)
September 1, 1990


New play by The Living Theatre at Sant’Agostino

THE THEATER QUESTIONS CULTURAL VALUES

In its production of The Tablets at the cloister of Sant'Ag-ostino, The Living Theatre is questioning the value and the sense of culture. The play is based on a cycle of poems by Armand Schwerner structured around the fictional discovery of a series of Sumerian tablets and the hypothetical attempts of a translator to decipher them. The poetry woven around this device is a kind of reflection on the relationship between illusion and reality, between communication and incomprehension and the limits of the word. The Living Theatre’s production goes even further; the device becomes a metaphor for the relationship between man and history and a reflection on knowledge and memory. What relationship to the past is possible for us? To what falsifications of history has the will to dominate led us and does it lead us still today? What kind of faith can we have in words as a source of communication between distant epochs? These are a few of the questions posed by The Tablets, posed, moreover, from an unusual perspective. Encountering the clay tablets in the act of telling themselves, the translator expresses both anger at feeling his existence violated by the presence of alien thoughts, and a desperate hopefulness born of the awareness that the violent act of translation is the only way he can continue to live. Thus he gradually loses the arrogance of one who supposes he can master memory and the past and reaches the point of admitting the impossibility of translation and consequently, of comprehension.

      It is a brief step from here to the impossibility of knowledge, and The Living Theatre takes It looking the audience straight in the eye, each tablet silently asking the public, “And you, what do you think I am?” The provocative power of The Living Theatre reaches in this play an acuity and a profundity which are all the more amazing if one considers the importance assigned to memory (or to that which passes for “memory”) by this information-driven society.

      Thus The Tablets is rooted in one of The Living Theatre’s singular capacities, its ability to provoke. The Tablets makes use of the extraordinary individual qualities of the members of the company and their great ensemble skills in the most skilful and harmonious fashion. The essentiality of the set, the lights, the music and the perfect rhythm of the dramatic action make this a production of the rarest symbolic depth.
- Letizia Pagliarino  


1990  l-unita review


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The Living Theatre   
Workshop     
L'Unita
(Florence, Italy)
September 8, 1990

The Famous New York Company Appears
In Arezzo and Figline at the Strateatro Festival

A SURPRISING LIVING THEATRE IN THE STREETS

The Living Theatre gave two surprising, provocative performnaces in Arezzo and Figline as part of the first Strateatro Festival. The group was greeted warmly by the passersby, who were not many but who participated actively in the play about the problems of urban life, a very physical staging of great communicative power in Piazza San Jacopo.

      It is a lovely evening at the end of summer in a piazza in Arezzo - Piazza San Jacopo is about to be taken by surprise by The Living Theatre. The occasion in the first Strateatro Festival organized by Chili della Balanza and once again the New York company does not let us down, despite the loss five years ago of the magnetic presence of Julian Beck.

      Arriving at the last moment in the piazza as diabolic figures rigorously contained in black and red costumes, the actors begin to interrupt the normal progression of time. At 8:45 the performance begins. On the one side there are the musicians, and the other, the actors, who take over the central space of the rectangular piazza with a series of signals delivered more with a look in the eye than with the voice. There are about thirty of them - some are part of the historic nucleus of The Living Theatre and others are young people participating in the two—day workshop given by the New York actors during which the piece, which will also be performed Friday in Figline, was created.

      As they form their circle, the circle of spectators around them grows gradually deeper. Their visual and aural pull is strong, but as we know, the street Is an evanescent environment and some people leave after a few seconds of curiosity. Those who remain, however, are gradually inspired and conquered by the presence of the dishevelled actors, who launch penetrating messages and burning cries, modulated with all the expressive potential of the body. It is vintage Living Theatre style at these two Tuscan evenings, a style immediately recognizable to anybody who has enjoyed any of their other plays. There were also spectators at the windows and balconies of the stark insurance buildings that surround this absorbing and captivating performance. The event was not announced and sprang up unexpectedly in the piazza - some in Arezzo were caught unprepared for this expression of the fear, violence and isolation characteristic of modern urban life and were heard to say, “This play is agonizing!” This unequivocal proof that The Living Theatre is still succeeds at reawakening feeling and rousing a casual public from their torpor.

      Others among the audience took to identifying and pointing out their schoolmates or friends participating in the performance and became protagonists of this Living Theatre experience. But the overall magic created by the formations of bodies in motion is nt interrupted, nor by the spontaneous, frenetic applause that accompanies the action and which serves to reduce the tension.

      The veterans of The Living Theatre are distinguishable amid the chorus of performers, and many eyes seek them out, watch them, looking to make contact with them among the students. Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov are hidden in the first row of spectators and initiate the long final chord that both pacifies and rouses oppressed humanity to rise up.

      After Tuscany, the last stop on this European tour, The Living Theatre will be back iii Italy In January 1991, Hanon Reznikov tells us, with a play based on a text by the young George Washington, Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and in Conversation, which will be presented In Rome, Milan, Turin and Cagliari.
- Teresa Megall   


1990 europe tour i and i review-a





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