Aldrich Allen, Carla-Jo Bailey, Michael Blackman, Troy Blendell,
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
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.
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
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
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.
"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.