Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

All In The Family

November 19, 2009

Cast members from TR Warszawa
Photo: Stefan Okolowicz/UCLA Live 2009

With the ever tightening relationship between motion pictures and the stage, it’s becoming more and more realistic for fans of certain films to hope to see their favorites make it to the flesh and blood world of the theater. From any number of Disney musicals to the upcoming Spider-Man extravaganza, the possibilities may seem endless. But if your taste in film runs less toward The Little Mermaid and more toward Pier Paolo Pasolini, you might find the wait for Salo! 120 Days of Showtunes insurmountable. However, in Los Angeles this week, you’ll be thrilled to know that Polish theater collective TR Warszawa have brought their version of Pasolini’s 1968 film Teorema, now entitled T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T., to the Freud Playhouse as part of UCLA Live’s International Theater Festival.

The play is a largely faithful adaptation of the film. It concerns a bourgeois family that is disrupted, seduced, and abandoned by a handsome drifter. In the wake of the loss of his sexual charms, father, mother, son and daughter find their lives nearly destroyed with only the family maid rising above the loss to reach a state of near sainthood. All of this is book-ended by two fake press conferences with the father where planted audience members ask him questions about capitalism and morality in his role as manager of a local factory. It's psychoanalytic stuff and not completely free of the 1960s cultural trappings from which it springs. But it is often funny and still rather provoking after all this time. What's better, director Grzegorz Jarzyna and his design team have a remarkably strong and lyrical visual sense producing stage images that are in fact more cinematic than Pasolini's original. The narrow empty plywood set that acts as all of the rooms in the bourgeois family abode soaks up light and dark in a brilliant way.

There's little dialog throughout most of the show and the production relies heavily on a troupe of actors who are experts of the telling small gesture, but are brave enough to deal with nudity and any number of other challenges presented by Pasolini's text. Even with only two performances, T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. continues what is turning out to be one of UCLA Live's strongest Theater Festivals in a number of years. There are two more productions left including Enda Walsh's The New Electric Ballroom before things wrap-up in December.


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