Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Guest Director Liberates Augsburg Theater Department

The Augsburg Theater Department will be presenting Samuel Beckett’s Eleutheria for this year’s winter main stage production. The production will feature guest director, Barbara Berlovitz, of the Tony-Award winning Theater de la Jeune Lune. Berlovitz and the rest of the creative team have worked to create a grotesque interpretation reminiscent of the Jeune Lune theatrical auteur. Fat-suits, white exaggerated faces and gender-bending extreme characterizations breathe a bold new life into the Beckett piece.

Eleutheria was originally written in French in 1947 and was the first dramatic play that Samuel Beckett ever completed. However, because Beckett completed his existential masterpiece Waiting for Godot very shortly after, Eleutheria received little notice or mention. The play was finally published in English in the mid 1990s was first staged in 2005 at the City Theater of Tehran in Tehran, Iran.

The plot is centered on the action, or inaction rather, of Victor Krap (Brandon Ewald). At the start of the play, Victor has been in a state of self-inflicted exile for about two years. Throughout the play, Victor’s parents (Melissa Warner, Alex Hapka), his fiancé (Ali Fitzpatrick) and several other eccentric characters attempt to bring him out of his alternative state of being. This production makes some rather sharp statements, facilitated by an energetic cast, about what it takes to be “normal” and “happy.” Eleutheria (Greek for a state of liberation) questions the meaning and purpose of societal values, relationships and personal fulfillment.

The preview did not feature costumes, but the set is a clever embodiment of the plot themes. Constructed mostly of windows with opaque glass and doors that do not open, the set (design by Michael Burden), forms a symbolic representation of Victor’s state of mind.

This production is being called a “workshop” production, for which Berlovitz and Jeune Lune have been famous. A workshop in this sense means that the final product comes together through the collaborative and creative ability of the whole cast throughout the rehearsal process. The characters are studded with creative facial work, over-the-top physical expression and clever use of props.

The play will open Friday, January 30 in the Tjornhom-Nelson Theater located in Foss Center. The show will run through Sunday, February 9. Admission is free with a donation of a non-perishable food item. For information on how to get tickets for Eleutheria visit www.augsburg.edu/theater or call 612-330-1257.

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