Closing November 18th. Performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Conceived by Andressa Furletti and Debora Balardini
Directed by Linda Wise
Produced by Group .Br, Monica Vilela and Roberta Fernandes
Original score by Sergio Krakowski
Video design and operation by Paul Leopold
Light design by Charlie Jarboe
Set design and art installations by Montserrat Vargas and Andressa Furletti
Costume design by Jussara Lee
Stage manager Kristin Rion
Director assistant Stephanie Machado
Production interns Fabia Lucyana, Mitchell Bueno and Sami Mushi
Marketing In The Lights
Public Relations Michele Tabnick
Andressa Furletti • Debora Balardini • Fabiana Mattedi • Gio Mielle • Gonçalo Ruivo • Ibsen Santos • Patricia Faolli • Mirko Faienza • Montserrat Vargas
Live music by: Mario Forte
“Getting lost is also a way.”—Clarice Lispector
I’d be very much inclined to discuss this fascinating, moving, strange—and important—two hours of immersive theater, spread across some twenty spaces from the first to the third floor (as well as a mezzanine) of a townhouse not far from Gramercy Park, but it is supposed to close on November 18, and I feel I owe it to its creators and our readers to get the word out. This magical spectacle has been over three years in development, and I’m sure the organizers, Group.BR, led by Artistic Director Andressa Furletti would like as many people as possible to see the fruit of their hard work and curious imaginations. Group.BR is a Brazilian theater group—the only one—based in New York City. For this production they have turned to the work of Clarice Lispector, perhaps the most recent Brazilian writer to be regarded as a major voice in world literature. I believe she is better known in some circles than in others. Although she died in 1977 at the age of fifty-six, her works were not extensively translated into English until around the mid-1980s, when the British publisher Carcanet began to issue a few books. New Directions started around 1990, and today they and Penguin Classics offer a considerable list of her novels, short stories, and occasional pieces. In her, the perspectives of Brazilian life, of women, and her emigration iton Brazil during the Second World War as a Jewish refugee from the Ukraine, come together in an interior melting-pot.
Lispector’s view of the world, at once precise and atmospheric, hedonistic and prone to guilty twinges, tied into family and isolated in detached observation of her inner and outer worlds, produces a prismatic experience in every insight and every phrase. Her stories encompass the spiritual and the existential, as well as material day-to-day life. Her acidulous humor is gently burnished with strokes of humane acceptance. An immersive performance in a house of many rooms seems an ideal outlet for Lispector’s multi-faceted view of the experience of middle-class Brazilians—a way of life many take for granted as mundane and boring. In fact she can find adventure in tedium. There is electric tension in the ambiguity of her expression: a word or phrase could lead the reader into the material, the realm of observation and wit, or the spiritual.
Given the variety of props, costumes, and deeply gifted actors, the ongoing tedium of life often appears as no more than a tacit given beneath the expressive, often intense gestures and speech of the cast. Upon entering the building, he audience is immediately cast into the role of explorer, perhaps climbing a narrow staircase into the unknown, perhaps walking into a space with an ordinary kitchen on one side and an “antiquish,” mildly exotic sitting area on the other. But what is going on at the kitchen table, with its centerpiece of a wide bowl of dried rose petals? Tarot readings! And I know one lady who came out of it very well indeed: both empress and priestess!
In the large room beyond that, a salon of a modern sort, with raised areas accessible by stairs at both ends. This is the scene of a variety of ongoing encounters, rituals, and confrontations. Some of these develop further in the smaller raised areas, and others move on upstairs. Both the company and the audience are in constant motion, with shorter or longer pauses of rapt fascination as one approaches and focuses on this moment or that. Since the audience are encouraged, but not obliged to participate, one might well enter into an exchange with the actors, either in dialogue or a silent exchange of attention. One audience member contributed a sensuous impersonation of a cockroach.
Audience members are encouraged to come back for repeat performances through discounts based on the number of visits. This colorful, mysterious performance is also profound, and it demands repeated engagement. You would do well to make the most of the remaining performances. There are only four of them!