d’apres les vacances

We just flew back from Paris and boy are our arms tired! We’re happy to report that Philippe Quesne and Vivarium Studio‘s new production d’apres nature opened to full houses at Theatre de la Bastille and looks like it will be a big success. Those of you who saw Itching of the Wings at P.S. 122 will be familiar with Quesne’s light touch as a director. He creates work that is philosophical and whimsical, entertaining but also intellectual. The new piece has a similar tone but is even richer. The scenography is clever and precise – all of the action occurs in a large wooden box, as if we are looking at an ant farm, terrarium or diorama. Half of the stage is a meticulous recreation of a little forest, the other half is like an artist’s loft or a musicians studio. The acting style, like that of Itching, is hyper-natural to the point of being nearly non-performative, but the construction of the presentation and the overall aesthetic contextualizes the action as performance.

“d’apres nature” is a French style of provincial landscape painting and by choosing that as a title, Quesne has already established, on one level, what he is setting out to do. By creating a set that is an all-encompassing box he establishes, overtly, another level. By staging small tableaux vivants inside the box it gets more complicated. Quesne uses projected texts as the sole narrative device. The ensuing small scenes – complete with songs, cooking, camping, farming and space exploration- seem happenstance but are meticulously choreographed to create a fabulously rich and complex experience. I only wish I could have stayed in Paris to watch the show repeatedly and start to unravel its layers.

And yet it never seems forced or burdensome, one is not bludgeoned with its intellectual force. The experience is more like being pleasantly buzzed and watching intriguing, deep ideas fly gently by. Quesne weaves references to Breughel, space movies, country and western music, the destruction of the ozone layer and much more into an intricate web of ideas and moments.

Really delightful. If you have a chance to go to Paris before the 29th of January, check it out. If not, hopefully they will return to the U.S. sometime soon.

In other news, some of you may remember the play I’m Gonna Kill the President: A Federal Offense that P.S. 122 brought to you in the summer of 2004 for the Republican National Convention. Well, The L.A. Weekly has just named it #1 on its top eleven list of productions for 2005. Check out the article here. (oh and good luck to Charles McNulty, late of the Village Voice, who scored a gig as lead theater critic at the L.A. Times! bully for you!!)

And finally – brace yourself. The season starts in earnest at P.S. 122 on January 19th. Upstairs there’s a dance festival, downstairs the National Theatre of the United States of America brings you their newest, biggest, craziest spectacle! good times. For more info check out ps122.org.

We’re still on vacation, kind of. Back for good on the 17th. See you then!

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