SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2003 - Peer Gynt


"...sheer ingenuity... a rich concoction of blues music,
folk superstition and steamy sensuality!" --L.A. Times

Down at the Crossroads at midnight...
you never know who you might meet.



by HENRIK IBSEN

On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...
January 23 - March 1, 2003
Thursday - Saturday @ 8pm
Admission: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
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Adapted & Directed by SCOTT RABINOWITZ
(Award-winning director of Timon of Athens, 2G's and
Burning Chrome, and co- creator of CRIME SCENE)
Music & Musical Direction by MICHAEL ANDERSON
(a.k.a. The Legendary Buck Silvertone)
Featuring original music by JAKE LA BOTZ

Featuring...
Aldrich Allen, Carla-Jo Bailey, Michael Blackman, Troy Blendell,
Rob Brink, Pat Caldwell, Ransford Doherty, Babe Hack,
Joe Jordan, Ameenah Kaplan, Crystal Keith, Jake La Botz, Masasa,
Michelle Noh, Adeye Sahran, Jacob Sidney, Ruth Silveira and Eyvonne Williams

 

In the swirling mists of the Mississippi Delta, Peer Gynt - braggart, liar, and teller of tall tales - braves angry mobs, trolls, and worse in search of life's purpose.  Featuring original and classic blues and gospel music of the Depression-era American South, this lively adaptation of Ibsen's PEER GYNT gallops through a man's dreams, loves, and sorrows before arriving, finally, where all great quests eventually lead: home.


Produced by Jim Tosney
Assistant Director/Stage Manager
- Heather Arnson
Assistant Director - Matthew Young King
Associate Producer - Steve Tanner
Costume Designer - Janel Opeka
Lighting Designer - Heatherlynn Lane
Set Designer
- Mark Bowerman
Sound Designer - Jason Tuttle
Choreographer
- Raquel Horsford
Master Carpenters - Aaron Francis, David Holcomb, John Nickles
Scenic Artists - Sheryl Lynn Davey, Susan Burns, Lisa Walker

NEWSREEL CREW
Director/Editor - Ned Barbee
Producer - Bethany Landing
Associate Producer - Sean Ogelsby
Director of Photography - Katie Guarnery
Assistant Camera/B Camera - Patrick Ford
Sound - Caryn Coleman

REVIEWS!

BACKSTAGE WEST

Ibsen meant this play to be a companion piece to Brand, the title character of which demonstrated the perils of rigidity in the face of tumultuous social shifts occurring in the mid-19th century. Unlike Brand, though, Peer is malleable: He is an unrepentant liar and opportunist whose credo becomes "to hell with everybody." The two plays were long considered to be impossible to stage. Both had novelistic structures that meandered through the two respective lifetimes to demonstrate Ibsen's moral points. But director Scott Rabinowitz has successfully tackled the massive Peer Gynt, using presentational techniques and a cinematic interlude to tell the story.

In this adaptation, Peer's journey begins in Mississippi, where Ibsen's poetry is delivered with a Delta twang. The transplantation works surprisingly well, aided in great part by sensational music from the Legendary Buck Silvertone (Michael Anderson) and the amazing Jake La Botz as the Great Boyg. Musical interludes contribute to the ambiance of the rural South. The cast members handle each allegorical character with ease, and their wonderful voices are used to good choral advantage. The trolls, representing amoral values, are the most fun, Troy Blendell leading the pack as the Troll King, and Joe Jordan making a very funny old troll; on the way to wealth and prestige, Peer (played with verve by Jacob Sidney) learns the most from them. As Peer's mother, Ase, Eyvonne Williams is notable, along with Michelle Noh as the pure-hearted Solveig and Masasa as her mother.

In the second act the long and convoluted tale of Peer's rise to power is cleverly solved with an ersatz newsreel of his life, a la Citizen Kane, that combines snippets of Ibsen's play with stock footage from the '30s. The film is fast-moving, sharp-edged, and so modern in sensibility that in contrast the impact of the presentational stage is diminished. We see the difference, too, in acting style. Sidney ages comfortably in the filmed sequences, but when we meet him onstage again at 60 the youthful actor has a harder time with it.

Throughout Peer's journey, he has feared only one thing: death in the form of the button molder (a sinister Ameenah Kaplan). However, Ibsen's joke is that Peer becomes such a nonentity as the result of his business practices that not even the devil will take him, even when he tries to buy his way into hell. Rabinowitz's presence is felt throughout the production in the staging--notably the wedding tableau--punctuated by effective lighting by Heatherlynn Lane and augmented by Raquel Horsford's choreography. Maxi Anderson handled the choral sequences. The bits and pieces of setting by Mark Bowerman solve the dilemma posed by the novelistic structure of Ibsen's 140-year-old play.

-- Leigh Kennicott
2003
Backstage West

L.A. TIMES

"Peer Gynt," Ibsen's "dramatic poem," was based on the old Norwegian folk tale about the narcissistic scoundrel Peer Gynt, whose wild and sometimes supernatural exploits have given many a post-Freudian academician plenty of grist for scholarly dissertations.

First published in 1867, "Peer Gynt" was the last verse drama Ibsen wrote. Perhaps that was because, when the play was eventually mounted in Ibsen's native Norway, it was critically excoriated. A sweeping blend of comedy, tragedy and folk story, Ibsen's play, if uncut, runs about six hours. In his new adaptation at the Sacred Fools Theatre, director Scott Rabinowitz, working from an uncredited translation, controls and focuses much of the dramatic sprawl, slashing whole segments from Peer's picaresque adventures. Still, at three-plus hours, Rabinowitz's ambitious take remains too much of a good thing. Even given an amusing video segment that further winnows the narrative, the adaptation waxes turgid in its latter scenes.

That said, Rabinowitz and his cast deserve high praise for the sheer ingenuity of their effort. Rabinowitz, who here switches the play's action to the Depression-era Mississippi Delta, has overseen a rich concoction of blues music, folk superstition and steamy sensuality that suits his source material down to the ground. Music director Michael Anderson, also known as the Legendary Buck Silvertone, contributes a toe-tapping blues score of the most bawdy and traditional stripe.

Jacob Sidney is alternately puckish and commanding as Peer, holding the stage through one of the most arduous roles in the theatrical canon. As Peer's mother, Ase, Eyvonne Williams adds the right touch of folksy naturalism, despite her evident struggle for lines on opening night. Among the large and superlative cast, Troy Blendell stands out as a consummately trashy Troll King; so does Ameenah Kaplan as the Button Moulder, Ibsen's famous and mysteriously symbolic character, a peddler intent upon melting the petty Peer down for a cosmic recycling.

-- F. Kathleen Foley
2003
L.A. Times