Monday, March 19, 2012

Thinking Cap Theatre: Cleansed (reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed on March 8, 2012.
Thinking Cap Theatre presents Cleansed, a captivating and controversial drama, by the late, great Sarah Kane. Set in a university sanatorium, Cleansed explores the depths of love in the face of loss, betrayal, and brutality.
Nicole Stodard directed a cast that included Jim Gibbons, Christina Jolie Breza, Daniel Nieves, John Robert Warren, Andy Herrmann, Desiree Mora, and Robert Alter.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
...Thinking Cap Theatre, under the direction of founding artistic director Nicole Stodard, has taken on Cleansed, Kane’s third play, at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage in a spare, yet thought-provoking production that will leave audiences shocked, perhaps mortified, and forced to challenge every conventional assumption of love.
Director Stodard is the first to admit that Cleansed has been one of the greatest artistic challenges she’s tackled, but given Kane’s script, any seasoned director would struggle to mount a convincing production. She gets a lot from her mostly young cast and makes the most of Kane’s terse, fast paced and emotional dialogue.
George Kun’s minimalist set effectively transforms Empire Stage’s tiny space into the cold, hopeless institution with just a metal examination table, bench and school desk, but it’s the creative lighting from Jeffrey D. Holmes and Nate Sykes and extensive sound effects from David Hart and the Thinking Cap team that complete the nightmarish scene.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
....this minimalist script given flesh and form by the imagination of director Nicole Stodard is a harrowing and frankly upsetting descent into Hell jammed with random sadistic violence targeting those who dare love.
To be honest, I only caught glimpses of Stodard/Kane’s underlying themes.  I felt much better after the show overhearing one of the actors tell his friends that he had no idea what the play was about either.
It may not matter whether we “get it” or not. Drawing from the Theater of the Absurd and the Theater of Cruelty, Kane and Stodard create what may be the theatrical equivalent of contemporary visual art: The artist is not overly concerned that you walk away with a clear comprehension of his or her vision as the end product of the artistic process. Instead, they are pleased if the work stimulates each individual audience member in extrapolating their own vision from the experience.
Other than the always fine Gibbons, no one in the cast here is going take home a Carbonell any time soon. But you have to give them all enormous credit for gamely investing themselves completely in the situations and wrestling with the material as bravely as Stodard and the audience. Warren, in particular, as the much-mutilated lover, convincingly expresses the extreme regret at failing his lover for one fleeting moment.
To say this is not for everyone is beyond understatement. But buried in Kane’s intentional excess is a dimly perceived something that is thought-provoking.
Eileen Speigler wrote for The Miami Herald:
...Sartre’s famous line, hell is other people, is confirmed in Sarah Kane’s astonishing, disturbing take on love. The play premiered just a year before the British playwright committed suicide in 1999 at age 28.
Directed by Nicole Stodard, this could be the most bleak, provocative and intensely poetic 80 minutes of theater in recent memory. With few exceptions, the seven-member cast is not squeamish about taking on the play’s graphic sex, nudity and gore (artfully suggested in a way that doesn’t reduce its gruesomeness), even when we might be.
The sanitorium-cum-torture chamber setting is overseen by Tinker... played with chilling brutality and flashes of pathos by local theater veteran Jim Gibbons...
The dissonance is captured affectingly when siblings/lovers Grace and Graham (Christina Jolie Breza and Daniel Nieves) lean on one another and sing, off-key, You Are My Sunshine. It’s one of the many moments played skillfully by the talented cast; another is when Graham and Robin (Robert Alter), a cowering “patient” besotted by Grace and forced to endure many indignities, quiz Grace on an ex-lover. Speaking in one voice, their words couldn’t be more antithetical.
The coarser fantasy of love/lust is laid bare in Tinker’s visits to a peep show dancer, nicely played by Desiree Mora, who not incidentally may be the most honest character and gives Tinker a moment of redemption and humanity.
Thinking Cap Theatre presents Cleansed at Empire Stage through March 31, 2012.

1 comment:

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