Category Archives: Φόρμαν Ρίτσαρντ

Ρίτσαρντ Φόρμαν «Ιdiot Savant» στο θέατρο Ρublic της Νέας Υόρκης

ΝΕΑ ΥΟΡΚΗ. Αίσθηση προξενεί πάλι ο συγγραφέας σκηνοθέτης Ρίτσαρντ Φόρμαν, ταγμένος στην πρωτοπορία εδώ και σαράντα χρόνια, με το νέο του έργο Ιdiot Savant στο θέατρο Ρublic (ως τις 13 Δεκεμβρίου). Οπως διαβάζουμε ο Φόρμαν επανέρχεται για μία ακόμη φορά στη διερεύνηση των προσφιλών του πνευματικοϋπαρξιακών θεμάτων, τη δύναμη της γλώσσας, το μυστήριο της ελεύθερης βούλησης και άλλα παρόμοια. Ολα ωστόσο γίνονται μέσα σε αυθεντικό κλίμα παραλογισμού και συνοδεύονται από απροσδόκητους ήχους, φωτισμούς, σκηνικά, αντικείμενα και πλάσματα, μεταξύ των οποίων και μια ευμεγέθης πάπια. Παρ΄ όλα αυτά η κριτική αντιμετωπίζει με πολλή σοβαρότητα το όλο εγχείρημα που είναι, φαίνεται, φιλοσοφικού περιεχομένου και σουρεαλιστικής μορφής. Τον τόνο στο έργο τον δίνει ίσως ο ίδιος ο τίτλος του, Ιdiot Savant, ιατρικός όρος που σημαίνει τον πνευματικά καθυστερημένο ο οποίος διαθέτει μία συγκεκριμένη διανοητική δεξιότητα. Ο ηθοποιός που υποδύεται τον idiot savant είναι διάσημος από τον κινηματογράφο αλλά διαθέτει επίσης νεωτερικό θεατρικό παρελθόν, έχοντας διατελέσει μέλος του πρωτοποριακού θιάσου Wooster Group (ο οποίος παρουσίασε προ ημερών στο Παρίσι το Vieux Carr του Τενεσί Γουίλιαμς). Είναι ο εικονιζόμενος Γουίλεμ Νταφόε, πλαισιωμένος από τις Ελίνα Λέβενσον και την Αλένκα Κρέγκερ. Οι τρεις τους, διαβάζουμε, διεκπεραιώνουν με πραγματική απόλαυση και μεγάλη πειστικότητα τους αλλόκοτους διαλόγους του Φόρμαν, αν και η φωνή του συγγραφέα, εκτός σκηνής, τούς έχει έγκαιρα προειδοποιήσει: «Μήνυμα προς τους ηθοποιούς: Μην προσπαθήσετε να προωθήσετε αυτό το έργο. Αφήστε το να συρθεί αργά πάνω στη σκηνή, αβοήθητο, χωρίς προφανή σκοπό». [ars… brevis, Το Βήμα, 06/12/2009]

Talk Talk

Richard Foreman puts language onstage.

by Hilton Als, The New Yprker, November 16, 2009

Elina Löwensohn, Willem Dafoe, and Alenka Kraigher in “Idiot Savant.” Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe.

Elina Löwensohn, Willem Dafoe, and Alenka Kraigher in “Idiot Savant.” Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe.

Uh-oh. Here comes an ominous-looking thought. Three of them, actually, all dressed the same: black suits, white shirts, black shoes. Each of them is called Servant, and they’re among the first people we see in the elegiac and beautiful “Idiot Savant,” by the writer and director Richard Foreman (at the Public). Collectively, the Servants (Joel Israel, Eric Magnus, and Daniel Allen Nelson) remind you of those self-replicating guys in “The Matrix,” but without the sunglasses and the stilted speeches. In fact, the Servants don’t have much to say, but we know that they’re essential to Foreman’s vision of things, because if his dense, hilarious stage work is about anything at all it’s his state of mind, his rapidly blinking consciousness. “All of my plays are about my attempt to stage my particular rhythm of perception, which is to say, admittedly, the plays are about me,” he has written.

Scenes from Foreman’s biography: He was born in New York in 1937, to upper-middle-class Jewish parents. He graduated from Brown University and received his M.F.A. in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama. As a student, Foreman wrote a number of naturalistic dramas that followed the traditional Western model of conflict followed by catharsis. But, after a while, he found that he wasn’t interested in plays like that. Back in New York, he encountered the work of the filmmaker and performer Jack Smith and the composer La Monte Young, who, along with several other artists, were producing movies and music and theatre that not only unfolded in real time but also deliberately exaggerated time and space through minimalism and repetition. Eventually, Foreman became a part of this post-dramatic performance scene, staging pieces that centered on language, rather than action, and expanded the audience’s idea of what a play could be.

Foreman uses language like paint; he sketches a line, or drips some words, the better to emphasize their thingness. Rarely does he ask speech to do anything as simple as clarify a point or establish a character’s motivation. He embraces mystification and flux. In the introduction to his 1989 play “Lava” (Foreman’s essays on his own work are as brilliant and as elegantly composed as George Bernard Shaw’s), he wrote, “There are writers who despair that a gap exists between the self and the words that come, but for me that gap is the field of all creativity—it’s an ecstatic field rather than a field of despair. . . . It’s the unfathomable from which everything pours forth.”

In “Idiot Savant,” the Servants, standing as stiff as boards, sometimes aim bows and arrows at the title character’s head. They are his superego, the self-conscious meanies who want to control the Idiot Savant (Willem Dafoe, in a great, expansive performance) and steer him away from his obsession with the only thing he can do: talk and think about language. In a way, the Idiot Savant knows that he’s limited. When he takes the stage dressed like an eighteenth-century Japanese samurai, with his hair pulled up on top of his head, his mouth is plugged. As he stares out at us, we realize that he is of a piece with Foreman’s archaic stage design: the walls are dark; chandeliers provide the illumination; a railing separates the stage from the audience. After a minute or two, a woman named Marie (the astonishing Alenka Kraigher) slinks onstage. She’s dressed in a black, Mary Queen of Scots-type dress with elaborate gold cuffs. With her long neck and her pale skin, she’s a kind of dominatrix-as-marionette. She moves and speaks slowly, gazing at the gag in the Idiot Savant’s mouth:

MARIE: Oh Idiot Savant—why stuff that provocative dental instrument into your mouth—impeding all possible “human speech”? (He takes it out. Pause)—Thank God, you’ve removed it.
IDIOT SAVANT: As a result, dear lady—am I no longer capable of saving us from magic words?
MARIE: But they occur very infrequently.
IDIOT SAVANT: Is it true?
MARIE: Have they begun happening?
IDIOT SAVANT: Are we under attack, Madame?
MARIE: What makes chosen words—magic?
IDIOT SAVANT: Who among us is prepared for an explanation?
MARIE: (Pause, thinks) Me?
IDIOT SAVANT: Me?

In Foreman’s world, the female characters are often the provocateurs. While the Idiot Savant is repeatedly left scratching his head (Dafoe makes his character’s confusion physical by crashing about the stage like a short-tempered iguana), it’s Marie who moves things along emotionally, despite the offstage voice (Richard Foreman) warning the actors at the start of the play not to “try to carry this play forward. Let it slowly creep over the stage, with no help, with no end in view.” Foreman says that he finds the exaggerated, carefully articulated “ ‘silent movie’ style of acting . . . more profound and penetrating than naturalistic acting.” And Dafoe and Kraigher work within this style—Kraigher is a taller, more willowy Lillian Gish in the 1928 silent classic “The Wind”—but they push against it as well. They can’t help it; they’re stars, who make the most of the constraints that Foreman imposes on them—a tight script, a cramped set, a range of offstage sounds, from a woman screaming “Watch out!” to a telephone ringing dully—while announcing, through their performances, Fuck it, we have personalities, too. Kraigher was born in Slovenia, and she’s a filmmaker as well as an actor. Her accent adds a lovely extra layer of otherness to her character’s French-sounding locutions. In casting her, Foreman is playing with the very notion of speech and how it sounds to foreign ears. (The audience is foreign to Marie, not vice versa.) Her banter with Dafoe is the primary “action” of the play. Like Kate Manheim and Kyle deCamp, who have appeared in other Foreman plays, Kraigher is perfectly cast, and unforgettable, because she doesn’t give in to his ideas completely—or to the Idiot Savant’s. No man will be the boss of her. She provides the necessary resistance that makes this comedic drama just that.