A Tale Told By An Idiot: Psittacus Productions, 8/14/10

19 08 2010

Streamlining Macbeth and interweaving Shakespeare’s Scottish play with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Psittacus Productions shines a light on the exciting, experimental potential of the Los Angeles theater scene. Adapted by Robert Richmond and Louis Butelli, A Tale Told By An Idiot probes these contemporaneous acts of treason in a fascinating postmodern form.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

A Tale Told By An Idiot is a play of lights and shadows, fiction and reality, past and present. Enshrouded in darkness behind a scrim, the black-clad ensemble executes tight choreography of flashlights to illuminate each moment of the production. Designed by Dan Weingarten, the lights sometimes throw monumental shadows across the scrim, the position of the king (whether the fictional King Duncan or historical King James I) always exceeding the individual human inhabiting the role. Flashlights held tightly let the blood shine through murderous hands, and haunting daggers float through the air. The effect is incredibly filmic – and unbeknownst to the live audience, a ghostly cameraman hides inside the action every night. After catching the 8pm show on Saturday, I streamed the 10pm production online. No longer was A Tale Told By An Idiot a stage production; it was an equally (although differently) entrancing film.

A Tale Told By An Idiot thrives on fragmentation and isolation. While the camera guides one’s perspective online, lighting flashes the live audience’s attention from one part of the stage to another – from the hands of rulers engaged in deep discussion, to the witches’ spidery fingers creeping up the wall, to bare feet tottering across the floor. Rarely does a body stand before the audience as a full, complete being: instead, characters are incomplete – dependent upon one another for their illumination, haunting one another or supporting one another, taking one another’s lines. Amidst this ensemble effort, the isolated faces reveal stunning individual performances drawn out by director Robert Richmond. Of particular note are Lisa Carter’s compelling Lady Macbeth and Louis Butelli’s trembling Guy Fawkes. Even in masks, the twitching three witches cohere the tale with their familiar chants: I even heard a few audience members chanting along to the most memorable lines of this tale, which has become our own.

A Tale Told By An Idiot stylistically floats among graphic novel exaggerations, homespun horrors like The Blair Witch Project, and epic kung fu films with stirring (if rather unexpectedly amusing) underscoring. I look forward to Psittacus’ next innovative, multimedia collaboration. Their premiere production has already made a notable impact in LA theater, and I hope their company can sustain this refreshing ensemble experimentation.

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20 08 2010
A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT: 100% – Sweet : Bitter Lemons

[…] SWEET A Tale Told By An Idiot stylistically floats among graphic novel exaggerations, homespun horrors like The Blair Witch Project, and epic kung fu films with stirring (if rather unexpectedly amusing) underscoring. I look forward to Psittacus’ next innovative, multimedia collaboration. Their premiere production has already made a notable impact in LA theater, and I hope their company can sustain this refreshing ensemble experimentation. Sarah Taylor Ellis – Compositions on Theatre […]

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