>From AisleSay- Aisle Say (Boston):Swimming

Swimming in March:
a play on Woyzeck

by Kate Robin
directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman
video & lighting by Tal Yarden
set by Caleb Wertenbaker
sound by Michael J. Dalby
The Market Theatre
One Winthrop Square, Cambridge MA/(617)576-0808

Reviewed by Will Stackman

The last time "Woyzeck"played Harvard Square was several years ago at the ART with Tom Derrah as the ur-loser in Gideon Lester's translation/adaptation. Kate Robin's reconception of Buchner's unfinished proto-expressionist domestic tragedy, now playing at the recently opened Market Theatre in Harvard Square adjacent to historical Winthrop Park - the colonial open market - is more compelling. The playwright has used the original play, based on early19th century psychiatric studies of an actual murderer, to create a modern tale revolving not around the downtrodden soldier-servant gone mad but around his unfortunate wife, Marie, played perhaps against type, but with considerable sympathy by Stephanie Roth Haberle

Robin's text rises to poetic intensity on occasion, but the main aesthetic of this production is based on complex and well-integrated video-projection as the core of the characters existance. Marie's husband, Louis, played with impressive physical control by Bruce Turk, works as a security guard in a department store surrounded by cameras and monitors. The show begins with a tape of Marie's obsessive erotic dream flickering on the mid-stage scrim, which seperates upstage and downstage, except for a doorway at one side. Video artist Tal Yarden and set designer Caleb Wertenbaker have joined forces to create an almost seamless blend of recorded and live-feed video, coupled with sound designer, Michael J. Dalby's audio background, to support and drive the live action. This production is probably the most successful multi-media dramatic effort seen in this area in some time.

Audience's familiar with this tale only from Berg's pioneering opera will know the outcome, but will be surprised at the development of the plot into a folie a deux, as Marie seeks out sex with Drum, played by the actress' husband Sean Haberle while Louis loses his sexuality and his mind, not necessarily in that order under the pressures of work and his second job as a test subject starving on senseless diets consisting of one week on citrus, the next on legumes. He may be hallucinating from metabolic failure coupled with job-related stress; she has a dream born perhaps out of post-partum depression and the daily grind. Her bedroom scene with drum went from eroticism to sore regret. Marie drowns as expected, but Louis returns to the department store, steals a useless taco cooker, and runs off suicidely into the sea on screen while her body, sunset lit, lies downstage.

As indicated, the secret of the production is integration of multi-media and live action. Obie-Award winning director, Rebecca Bayla Taichman , has taken Kate Robin's poetic script and fashioned a stream or action which only occasionally runs up against the physical limitations of actual stage space. The cast is appealling, and uses their accumulated backgrounds in various regional theatres and drama programs to forge an ensemble to carry off the work without obvious effort. Kerrie Kitto, doubled as Marie's friend Margaret and a Saleswoman at Louis ‘store, and Shawn Strudnick as Louis' partner Andy, have been seen locally and nationally. Buzz Bovshov playing the heavy as both the Doctor and the Boss, has considerable off-Broadway experience. In a larger space, more forceful acting might be required, but in these confines, the play was well-cast; the leads both hold the stage, together and alone.

The Market Theatre's current space is the old dining hall of the former Pi Eta Club, which was converted into the Grendel's Den Restaurant, now confined to the basement, with al fresco seating as well in good weather. Those used to attending theatre events in Harvard houses will find the ambience familiar; those expecting more specific separation between audience and stage may be distracted. The hall is long and narrow with the stage cut into one long wall, creating frieze performing conditions. The audience, seated in very comfortable armchairs is spread wide so that performers must continually shift focus if contact is required. Entrances made through the house seem tentative. The whole effect is comfortable but temporary.

However, the opening of a new theatre venue in a good location with a promised year-round schedule is cause for celebration in the arts community. Too many theatre groups in the Boston area operate in shared, out of the way quarters, unable to build an audience. The Market Theatre, in prime Harvard Square real estate, has potential to become a major focus for intimate contemporary theatre. The theater space is too small to support itself on ticket sales, but their founder, Gregory C. Carr, through his foundation, has provided an ample endowment which may insure their future on the Boston scene. provided that artistic director, Tom Cole, can maintain the quality of their initial offerings and use their possible good reputation to present larger works in more profitable venues. Their fall season will be anticipated.

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