18 October 2007

An Actor Prepares

An Actor Prepares
Eagles Nest Theatre
La Mama Theatre
18 October 2007

Review by Christina Cass

Walking into and through the set of An Actor Prepares by James Adler, is a trip through time.  With the ferryman (in this case ferrywoman) musically guiding the audience’s urban raft.  Where you are, you don’t exactly know, but the set by Magdalena Romanuik is heartbreakingly simple and heavy with memory.  Burning sage scenting the air immediately transports the viewer to a mystical time:  hanging Druidic runes; shorn tree stumps; and a white-robed and bearded Mr. Adler all summon up a mystical, religious experience.  I couldn’t help but feel witchcraft – in all its earth-honesty – hanging in the air.  What would Jesus (whom Mr. Adler bears a striking resemblance to) be doing in the middle of a wiccan warren?  Where ancient primal music composed and performed by Nela Trifkovic resonates through the space.

We soon understand the subtitle, “When Does Peace Mean War?” of this new Eagle’s Nest Theatre production at La Mama, has on one level much to do with a struggle against the terrorism of creativity but I came out with more of a, ‘Heck, when does anything mean anything?’  feeling. The imagery and essence of this play are stunning:  simple and heartbreaking. They challenge the audience to trust their senses. Do I see floating runes or shrapnel hanging in the air? Is it a trumpet, a musical instrument of joy (and reveille) or a carefully deconstructed machine gun?  A cradle or a deathbed?  These images beg timeless questions of who are we if we are not what we seem.  None of us are.

That said, the script makes much more sense than in a stand alone context.  It is intentionally fractured, weaving tales through time and, as a work in progress, the performances by Ms. Trifkovic and Mr. Adler are courageous.

They really have something very special, very personal and still accessible here and I hope they take this further because I do think that very personal work needs an outside eye to help take the next step toward a mature piece of theatre.

It’ll be hard to find a director as sensitive and absorbing as Ms. Trifkovic and trust him or her with this piece, but they must to get to the next level.  Once relieved of wearing two hats, I am quite sure that the talent in the room will leap up and continue to punt through these deep waters of the story without fear.

This review originally appeared on AussieThearte.com

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