Monday, November 5, 2007
Theater Review: NOH Angels, Demons & Dreamers
Spellbinding, elegant, heart wrenching, a tour de force — the production sped by so fast I wasn’t sure if I dreamed it all.
Pass on the sake. Quaff a glass of Sonoma County wine, instead.
Indulge yourself non-stop for about ninety minutes…in an ethereal, entrancing, cross-cultural stage performance.
NOH Angels, Demons and Dreamers: Japanese Masterpieces of the Supernatural runs through November 17 at Dallas’ Undermain Theatre, in the bowels of Deep Ellum. Even if you’re no fan of sushi, you owe it to yourself to attend this fresh, unusual production.
The evening starts with an unexpected, humble apology. Fred Curchak, the creator-lead actor, clad in ninja-esque black, ambles onto the sparse set and explains how the set and costumes worn by both performers and the musical accompaniment are non-traditional. He smiles kindly, explains further that the evening consists of five short plays written in 14th-15th century Japan, adapted “without attempting to imitate the authentic acting, dance, music or design but with love and respect for the art and the texts (of NOH and Kyogen Theatre).” The audience has no clue what is coming.
His co-creator, Laura Jorgensen, joins him on stage; the audience is immediately transported to a theatrical landscape filled with demons, angels, dreamers and souls in torment. Spellbinding, elegant, heart wrenching, a tour de force — the production sped by so fast I wasn’t sure if I dreamed it all. It’s magnificent and pure magic!
Mr. Curchak is a formidable talent. He currently teaches Art & Performance (acting, directing, writing, voice, movement, music, design, masks, puppetry, shadow/art, video) at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has created over seventy original multicultural theatre pieces, twenty-six solos and taught theatre at the United Nations International School and Sonoma State University, where he was associated with the one-of-a-kind Cinnabar Theatre Company. On stage he is at once captivating and totally at ease, whether he is creating a fanciful shadow monster behind a scrim curtain, “rowing a boat” with a guitar oar while accompanying himself on it, or screaming in despair in solitary exile.
Matching him in wit, skill and stage presence is the diminutive Laura Jorgensen, who spent ten years in residence at Cinnabar Theatre and has performed in or premiered some of the finest world playwright’s works across the country and abroad. Ms. Jorgensen ages onstage or changes gender so effectively I wanted to rub my eyes in wonderment.
Rudimentary costuming, next to no stage makeup, stark lighting, performing in the tiniest of intimate spaces: it’s a consummately professional and engaging performance. Curchak and Jorgensen are both masters of their craft, creating art that captivates its audience and illuminates truth. You won’t miss the sake, sushi or other ancient traditions; please don’t miss this evening’s enchantment.
The plays run Thursday through Saturday evenings through November 17. For tickets, call 214-747-5515 or purchase online.
Alexandra Bonifield is an independent arts critic & advocate for performance art.
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