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    Gne de Tueur

    Born to be wild

    "Gne de Tueur," an intense French drama about a prisoner genetically determined to be a potential killer, features some of the best performances in this year's Fringe Festival.


    Prisoner number 37-43-T has been here in the fourth subbasement since his genetic screening identified him as a potential killer at age four, and so far he has failed to get better. Oops, make that "guest" number 37-43-T, because things have changed in the genetic-diversion system. With years of rehabilitation, the guests can move up as far as the first subbasement, and someday even hope to rejoin the "nonoffending population" on the surface. Meanwhile, they are to be treated with respect and hospitality, and provided with everything they need, from cigarettes to a sexual-development program.

    Written by: Charles Aivar.
    Directed by: Delphine Lalizout.
    Cast: Catherine Piffaretti, Benjamin Zeitoun.
    In French without subtitles.
    28th Street Theatre
    120 W. 28th St.
    Aug. 10-26, 2001

    Fringe Festival 2001

    • Overview
    • Show listings

    • 21 Dog Years
    • Debbie Does Dallas
    • Doing Justice
    • Einstein's Dreams
    • The Elephant Man: The Musical
    • Equal Protection
    • Fifty Minutes
    • Fuck You or Dead Pee Holes
    • Gene de Tueur
    • L'Hiver Sous la Table
    • Imperative Flight
    • Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries
    • Loader #26
    • A Piece of My Heart
    • Sic
    • Snapshot
    • Take
    • Two Girls from Vermont
    • Woosh
    • Zoo

    • Absolutely Abreast
    • Break the Floor
    • I Dance

    • Studio

    Other Fringe Festivals
    • Fringe 2000
    This is the setting of "Gne de Tueur," an intense futuristic thriller from France. We see this prisoner (Benjamin Zeitoun) in his first few sessions with a new doctor (Catherine Piffaretti), one who believes in treating him as a human being with the potential for recovery, not just a number, and even calls him by his name: Mr. Gage.

    And yet, there's the matter of all-knowing genetic science to overcome. The computer on the doctor's desk can recite in detail Mr. Gage's percentage probabilities of every type of violent behavior, and can even predict the most likely dates on which he might murder someone and describe the potential victim. The description resembles that of the doctor, actually.

    "You've had violent impulses toward me?" she asks at one point.

    "No, not violent impulses — a desire to kill you," he answers coolly. Suddenly, the well-appointed office fills with a sense of danger as Gage notes how little there is to keep him from fulfilling this desire. "You. Me. Thirty seconds," he threatens.

    You've probably seen stories about this kind of dystopian technocratic future before, but several things set "Gne de Tueur" apart. This kind of story is almost always about the individual fighting an unjust system, but not necessarily in this case. There really is violence seething under Gage's surface, and it's up to us to decide whether it really is part of his genetic makeup or whether maybe he's been gradually animalized by his lifelong imprisonment. Maybe the genetic screening is unfair — but what if it's right?

    And "Gne de Tueur" owes much of its intensity to the performances of Piffaretti and Zeitoun, under the capable direction of Delphine Lalizout. Piffaretti gives glimpses of humanity from behind the doctor's officious facade, as she provokes Gage while meaning to be kind. Zeitoun, strong and compact with a shaved head, is like a time bomb onstage. You can see his character's usually-suppressed fury and raw pain, when he's controlling them to present the proper appearance to the doctor. At other times, his rage emerges full-blown, which is what really gives complexity to the issues presented in the play. Only the French-speaking audience will have the chance to appreciate it, but this is one of the most outstanding performances in the festival.

    AUGUST 24, 2001

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