Monday, April 06, 2009

Three Ways of Being Small

I'm remembering three memorable productions I saw recently. One was Mabou Mines DollHouse, an adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House, at Saint Ann's Warehouse in Dumbo. The set was scaled down to the male actors, who were midgets. The women were tall, but spoke with tiny voices and Norwegian accents. On Mabou Mines web page, we read that Director Lee Breuer "turns Ibsen*s mythic feminist anthem on its head by physicalizing the equation of Power and Scale. Torvald, Rank and Krogstad, (the men), are all played by actors whose heights range from 40 to 53 inches. Nora and Kristine are tall and Helene, the maid, is a full 6 feet. Nothing dramatizes Ibsen's patriarchal point more clearly than the image of these little men dominating and commanding women one and a half times their size in a playhouse size doll house." The stuff of bad dreams that night for me and my friends, you betcha.

Second production: The Awaji Puppet Theater Company presented a group of traditional plays at the Japan Society. This was Bunraku, where all the puppets, which are 3 feet tall, are manipulated by three men dressed entirely in black, who somehow see through or in spite of the full hoods they wear. The men represent the shadow side of a world in which the puppets, who do not speak, through masks that do not move, are reality.

Third: Laurie Anderson is currently at Location One in Soho, through May 2. But Laurie is only a few inches high, seated in an armchair in a corner of a darkened room. Her dog is with her. They are 3-D projections of the real thing, and after you've been in the room for a while and your eyes have become accustomed to the dark and you hear Laurie tell her story, it dawns on you that you are a giant, looking down at her from your great height (in my case, 5'2"), and that you represent the terror that comes from the air, the vultures circling, the planes, as in "here come the planes, they're American planes, made in America." From the Air, as the installation is titled, is about disembodiment, hers and yours.

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