Tag: Andras Visky

Review: Exiles (Theatre Y)


Theatre Y detours off the map


Theatre Y - Exiles by James Joyce

Theatre Y presents
Written by James Joyce
Directed by Kevin V. Smith
at the Lacuna Artist Lofts, 2150 S. Canalport (map)
through August 27  | 
tickets: $10-$20  |  more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

Theatre Y is a company that deserves, and in many ways, demands respect for their talents and international exposure. Up until now they have done solely the works of Romanian playwright, Andras Visky. With “The Exiled Trilogy” they are now taking on three works by established authors in rep. The first play of the series is Exiles, the only play ever written by James Joyce. Directed by Kevin V. Smith in the starkly industrial Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen, this production is bare boned, highly experimental and expressionistic.  It is also near incomprehensible.

Daiva Bhandari as Beatrice Justice - Theatre Y - Exiles by James JoyceUltimately, this nearly three-hour long dense, yet daring, revival of Joyce’s rarely seen theatrical endeavor is not for everyone. There are moments where the exhaustive monologues become unbearable. Still there are a couple brief moments where Smith has extracted the core themes and emotion in Joyce’s writing and has highlighted them in strict expressionistic choreography, “female-to-female” drag, and lip-synching of contemporary pop music. These moments were a relief in comparison to other moments where Smith’s direction is oppressive and confounds the story more than it already is. I only wished Smith had  slashed about an hour off of Joyce’s script and included more of those few moments of life. Nevertheless, the production almost invites you to get lost in and dismiss Joyce’s wordiness and simply become transfixed by the incredible artistry of Theatre Y’s aesthetic.

Joyce was deeply influenced by Ibsen thematically and in his attention to domestic realism. The play’s central character is Richard Rowan Rafael Franco, a writer from Dublin. After returning from exile in Italy with his wife, Bertha (a transfixing performance by Melissa Hawkins) and their eight year old son Archie (Theo Tongue), a love triangle is formed involving their old best friend Robert Hand (David Bettino). The three were friends from their youth, including a history between Bertha and Hand. Struggling to fight his jealous temper, Rowan persuades Bertha and Hand to be honest to themselves and him. Meanwhile, Rowan has a past and rekindling with Beatrice (Daiva Bhandari). This in turn makes Bertha jealous. It begins to play out a little like “The Housewives of Dublin.” The bulk of the play revolves around dialogue and accusations stemming from this jealousy.

Melissa Hawkins - Theatre Y - Exiles by James Joyce

What is most interesting in the script is how subtle the sexual advances are, yet charged. Smith’s overt staging, while visually captivating, doesn’t seem to belong in this play. The women, especially Beatrice, are emotionless, robotic and cold. It’s clear he’s making a statement about domesticity and male/female relationships. However, by illuminating every detail Joyce provides to a highly theatricalized action (such as pausing the play for a split-second every minute when the time clock in the space “clicks”), it ultimately detracts from the audience’s understanding of the story. A director spends countless hours with a script before developing a concept. They have several readings and hours of rehearsal to take out of the script what is important to them, and what they want to communicate with the audience. However, what Smith is forgetting here is that the audience is experiencing this story for the first time. The experimentation would possibly play better with a script that is more well known, leaving this production for the Joyce scholars among us.

The performances are impeccably rehearsed, almost to the point where any hint of spontaneity has been erased. Franco’s Rowan hits the anger but he rattles through the monologues lacking the ability to take the audience through the language. Hawkins is a powerhouse as a female-to-female drag queen. In some ways this is a separate point from her performance as Bertha, since when she breaks into lip-synched performances of songs such as Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep", it’s an entirely different show. While the lyrics connect to the story, the departure from the world of the play provides little more than welcome entertainment. In the end, I would’ve rather watched three hours of the impassioned drag,than try to make head-and-tails of what Joyce’s play is truly about in Theatre Y’s brave yet frustrating telling.

Rating: ★★

Melissa Hawkins and David Bettino - Exiles by James Joyce - Theatre Y

Theatre Y presents Part One of “The Exiled Trilogy,” Exiles by James Joyce. Performances play sporadically through Aug. 27th. Parking is available. The show runs 2 hours and 45 minutes with one ten-minute intermission. Tickets are $10 Industry, $15 Student, and $20 General. For tickets and more information visit: www.theatre-y.com.   All photos by Marianne Bach.


June 15, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Juliet (Theatre Y)

A powerful journey through faith and misery


Melissa Hawkins plays Juliet by Andras Visky

Theatre Y presents
Juliet: A Dialogue About Love
Written by Andras Visky
Directed by
Karin Coonrod
Royal George Studio, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through October 3rd  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Andras Visky’s autobiographical play Juliet plunges to some of the deepest abysses of misery. It describes his mother’s experience in a Romanian gulag from 1959 to 1964, where she had to raise seven children—Andras included—while imprisoned for being married to a reverend. The one-woman show explores the fine line where the flickering flame of the human spirit burns out. Visky lays bare some powerful truths that’ll have you reaching for the Prozac. The play bristles with gravitas. The utter, entirely-believable pain in the language strikes true in the heart, but the heavy subject matter weighs the piece down.

Melissa Hawkins plays Juliet by Andras Visky 2 In the subtitle, Visky claims he has penned a dialogue “about love,” even though only one character speaks for the whole duration. The author, along with the sharp-witted Melissa Hawkins portraying his mother, create a very real interaction between Juliet and her God. The relationship is complex and nuanced, even though we only hear and see one half. Hawkins’ biggest strength is clarity, a forte which makes the “dialogue” come alive. Visky packs his story with spirituality, understandable because he was a minister’s son, a minister that was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Several aspects of the real life narrative plug into the Biblical account of Job, a point Juliet makes several times. Her experience has her questioning everything, including both her prayerbook and the Communist propaganda proclaiming God’s non-existence.

Huge questions are at bat in Visky’s prose. Juliet debates suicide in as grand of terms as Hamlet. She claims she is well acquainted with the hand-maidens of death, even enjoying a hot bath at their hands. Sometimes she even implies regret for not joining them. She ponders, perhaps even dreams, about what it would be like to leave her children behind. Juliet fields the questions, I assume, most people that trek through that sort of agony ask themselves.

There are a few times Hawkins and Visky let some humor flutter out. There needs to be more of those moments. The releases are what make such a horrible ordeal not only a bit more palatable, but relatable. Even though Hawkins has been touring the show for years, Juliet’s sense of humor comes off as unsure. She has some brilliant moments, such as the first time she surveys her new home. After five days of being cooped up in cattle trains without access to a bath, she releases her naked children into the rain. It’s the little slices of joy, wit, and irony that make the show watchable. Hawkins appears to paint other moments with comedy, but they lack the clarity that defines the rest of the performance.

Director Karin Coonrod and her team create a world inside the tiny Royal George studio that’s incredibly Spartan but infinitely adaptable. Matthew Kooi’s lighting design is stunning, relying on several, single-instrument moments. His choices drastically set the perfect mood for each section and push the drama of the entire show. Hawkins owns the entire stage, which contains more surprises than it would first appear. One heartbreaking moment occurs when she contemplates her husband’s possible demise. When crying out that he is alive, she grabs onto a coat (apparently Visky’s actual father’s garment) that hangs from the flies, but quickly releases it when the more probable reality hits her, letting it sway forlornly.

In Hawkins beats the heart of a performer. She tosses herself into the sea of the character, even when the situation is so bleak. Visky, like many of Eastern Bloc writers, waxes existentially, shaping austere subject matter with grace. Juliet asks the audience to slog through a lot, but the final moments give the journey meaning.

Rating: ★★★


September 14, 2010 | 0 Comments More