Theatre Review

5 Jan

The Festival of Arts set up by the Lionel Wendt had some interesting exhibits this time. On the night of the 25th, they had four short plays by different directors / troupes, back to back which provided an interesting contrast as well as array of different tidbits of life to sample over ten minutes each – except in the case of “The Amazing Krispinsky” which offered the whole gamut of life in 10 minutes – but more of that later.

First up was “Coriolanus” by the Drama Society of D.S Senanayake College portraying a Shakespearean excerpt by the same name; the story of a skilled general in the battle field who is flawless and ruthless in techniques of battle but more nuanced, naïve and sensitive when it comes to being a politician. The opening scene of the battle was well choreographed; the lead actor apparently won the coveted best actor award in the All Island Shakespeare Drama Competition. It was a fairly well enacted play but paled in comparison with the rest of the plays on offer that evening, though perhaps the comparison between High Schoolers and the seasoned professionals of the later plays is a bit unfair.

Next up was “The Amazing Krispinsky, ” written by American playwright Eric Coble and directed by Chamat Arambewela. The Amazing Krispinsky we are told is an “escape artist extraordinaire” who has a wide repertoire of escape acts to his credit and now we were going to see him perform the most extraordinary escaping of ties that bound (the play’s original name is “Ties that Bind”); he was going to try to escape the shackles of his own life.
Dominic Kellar played the role of stage master Marco who directed the audience as to what they were seeing while the loin clothed Krispinsky writhed about with invisible ties: “He’s started! He’s going — he’s grappling with parental approval! Vying for his parents’ affection against three other siblings…
“But he’s up! By sheer force of hormonal rebellion he’s on his feet!…
“But he’s still got to get through his Hyper-Conciousness of his physical appearance — the left ear slightly smaller than the right, the gangly arms — the ACNE — oh God, he’s almost free of the acne — but does he have halitosis? No! He does not have halitosis…
“But now he’s facing his Inability to communicate with the opposite sex! Small talk — using his out-sized bravado to mask his stunted inner life — Can he wriggle out of his Intimacy Phobia?? He’s doing it… He’s doing it…”
And so on and so forth in a hilarious monologue as the hapless Krispinsky writhes and grapples to stand up again and again only to be knocked down – by student loans, by religious convictions, by marital woes, work woes – and parental disapproval even late in life, until finally he manages to break free of all the bonds!

“And he’s dead! Oh! Ladies and gentlemen, the astounding Krispinsky finds true freedom at last! Give it up for the Ultimate Escape!”
It is a hilarious and fast paced play with a lot of flamboyance and style on the part of Marco with the poignancy far removed but certainly felt. Who couldn’t empathize with the feeling of trying to break free of the shackles of life and the blows that bring one down despite various attempts to stand up straight? A play that makes one laugh until it hits one later that it has successfully showcased the tragedy of life as a 10 minute comedy.
“Starving Children, ” a play by Eric Bogosian, directed by Ruvin de Silva features a charismatic preacher (Gehan Blok) who takes advantage of people’s guilt and fears to collect money. Apparently he gets hundreds of anguished letters a day and in order to get rid of their guilt and gain God’s favour, all his followers need to do is give him, the Reverend Tim, $18 a month for the starving children of Africa. He was quite good at it too, the way he built up his case; one was almost tempted to reach for the wallet to get rid of him and his guilt inducing tripe.

The last play, “Commencing” written by Jane Shepard and directed by Brandon Ingram was my personal favourite. Kell, a young woman is all togged up to go on a blind date, ready to have some fun after an acrimonious divorce several months earlier. Only when the doorbell rings, there is a woman outside with the obligatory flowers. A comedy of errors ensues with Kell thinking the woman is delivering flowers from her date, then jumping to the conclusion that he is cancelling and then finally realizing that Arlin is the date. The play is an interesting exploration of female sexuality with both ladies hostile at first and gradually thawing towards each other to discuss their innermost secrets and feelings. The plot and conversation moves at an interesting but believable pace exploring various issues along the way until the climax – and yes while you know there is an inevitable climax that the play is moving towards, no amount of second guessing is likely to lead you to the correct conclusion. But at the end, you are left a wiser and hopefully a more empathetic person.

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