Monday, January 20, 2014

La Vie en Rose, the In Series collaboration with The Washington Ballet Studio Company,  is not your usual song and dance show. 

Evoking Parisian life through the musical palette of modern French cabaret chansons and belle epoque art-songs, the work is imaginative, emotional and energetic.  

The singers walk and move among the ballet dancers.  While this is not unusual in itself, it is conceptually  different from musicals where singers and dancers share a stage but are clearly distinct.  

In La Vie en Rose, one might say the singers and dancers move together to the same tune. They breathe together.  What one sees is how the body  of the dancer and the voice of the singer are expressing the meaning of the song simultaneously.   

The coordination of two separate arts in this highly creative staging is not simply keeping to the same beat of the music.  What the singers and dancers share is their breaths in what might be deemed  to be an organic work. 

In some cases, props were appropriately used--a marionette scene were two dancers become entangled in their strings pulling them, or two women sitting on a picnic blanket singing while two dancers pour snow flakes on them.  At other times, the dancers  slumped perfectly immobile in cafe chairs, blending in as they were part of the scenery.

The lyrics of  Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Belgian Jacques Brel and music by Berlioz, Henri Duparc,  Debussy, Edith Piaf  are woven together, each a separate piece, that are clearly united as French.   

In the end, it was all about love in all its moods, neither always white or black, but as the theme  song translates “Life is pink.”

La Vie en Rose is gone now but like its title, not forgotten.  It was presented at the Gala Theater in  Washington DC in January 2014 and featured renowned soprano Fleta Hylton and tenor Byron Jones, as well as rising stars CarrieAnne Winter, Andrew Adelsberger and Adrienne Starr.  The Washington Ballet Studio Company dancers included first season performers  Ariel Breitman, Laura Chachich, Esmiana Jani, Josue Justiz, Olivia Lipnick, Carolyn Lippert, Fernanda Oliveira, Sukyung Park, Daniel Savetta, Carly Wheaton and Marshall Whiteley.   

May the farce be with you.

Constellation Theatre Company again lives up to its name by reaching  up into the universe of possibilities to mount Moliere’s Scapin as adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell.

A trip in outer space would have less bumps than the rambunctious trip that the shrewd scheming servant Scapin leads his characters from exposition to coincidences to the inevitable chase finale.

The razzling cast is led by Michael Glenn who as Scapin is the first zani, with the versatile  Bradley Foster Smith as the second zani.  The two servants will through a series of skits succeed in uniting people  as well as involving the audience in a parody of the theater, all at the expense of the pocketbooks and prides of their pompous masters.

The ensemble cast --Megan Dominy and Ashley Ivey, Nora Achrati, Vanessa Bradchulis, Manu Kumasi, and Carlos SaldaƱa --are convincing actors especially as they move on a fantasy set created by  A.J. Guban,  in exceedingly silly clothes designed by the superb  Kendra Rai, and under the direction  by Kathryn Chase Bryer,

But there is one character who should be mentioned.  That is the piano, whose musical lines are from some of our well known television programs and movies.  Travis Charles Ploeger, the composer and pianist, heightens the sense of theatricality with the musical snippets which compliment the words and actions.  Intuitively, the audience knows what sense of drama that music connotes.  When placed in context of the ridiculous actions, the laughter is compounded.

As a side note--this truly is Moliere who is somewhere in the center of the comic theater pantheon which stretches from commedia dell’arte, through vaudeville and television comedians like Lucille Ball   Accused of plagiarizing to create his characters, he gave one of his famous aphorisms: I recover my property wherever I find it.  If he borrowed too much from other works, he also left a treasury of works to be borrowed from.   Scapin is not only Moliere’s personification of zaniness, but of all the  clowns we have known and loved and laughed at.

Bottom line:  Classic farce infused with fresh barbs --Scapin--done to perfection at Constellation Theatre.