It's Galileo vs. the lord in "Fanatics," a movement-theater history of the conflict between scientist and church that offers some provocative ideas but also suffers a few missteps.
By FRANK EPISALE
"Fanatics" is the first original play from EB&C, a collaborative theatrical ensemble devoted to exploring performance through their
own unique blend of movement styles. Praised in the past for their innovative productions of canonical works such has "Hamlet" and
"The Seagull," they have quickly established themselves as one of New York's most promising young avant-garde companies.
Conceived as a meditation on the life and character of Galileo, "Fanatics" showcases EB&C's trademark athleticism and grace but sometimes seems
to wander and repeat itself unnecessarily. While Galileo is certainly a worthy subject for tribute and exploration, he's received a lot of attention
over the centuries and it's difficult to tell what this play adds to the material already available.
|Directed by: Ellen Beckerman.|
Cast: C. Andrew Bauer, Josh Conklin, Margot Ebling, Shawn Fagan, James M. Saidy.
Lighting design by: Michael O'Connor.
Costume design by: Joel Yapching.
Related links: Official site
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March 7 - April 6, 2002
Text for the play is drawn from a variety of primary sources: Galileo's personal and scientific writings, letters from his daughter, transcripts of
his trial before the Inquisition, etc. While delivering these passages, the actors engage in elaborate movement sequences that sometimes underscore
the characteristics of the speaker and sometimes illustrate relevant ideas or situations. While such "interpretive dance" techniques can often seem
pretentious and just plain silly, the enthusiasm and sense of humor inherent in the company's work help them avoid such pitfalls for the most
part. Indeed, most of the piece is very entertaining, as long as you don't try to look too deeply for new insights. Strikingly beautiful stage pictures
alternate with playful parodies of the church. Several times, it becomes clear that the actors are making light of themselves too, that the actions
onstage are self-referential and the audience is invited to laugh along with these inside jokes.
That's part of the problem here, though. In her director's note, Ellen Beckerman writes: "During [the play's] development, we have been guided
by our interest in Galileo . . . and in our own continued interest in what it is for the six of us to be a in a studio together." Too often, it seems like
this is a piece more about EB&C than Galileo. In one particularly telling moment, an actor playing a church official breaks briefly into a dance and
then stops and says, "Oops; that's from another production altogether." Press materials indicate that this is a reference to a scene from the
company's production of "Hamlet." The two people in the audience who apparently saw that show found the moment extremely funny, but
everyone else was a little confused.
EB&C have a lot going for them: a director with an acute visual sense, a dedicated ensemble who move beautifully and speak with great
intelligence, and an obvious love for the process of theater and for working with one another. A great deal of work and time went into this
performance and there are some provocative kernels: the ensemble is made up of four men and one woman; all the actors take turns representing
Galileo as well as the Inquisitors, but only the woman represents the daughter. Is this the beginnings of a gender-political statement or just an
attempt to make things easier for the audience to follow? Before there's really time to give it much thought, the play devolves into
self-congratulatory cleverness and the audience is invited to applaud themselves for having the good taste to have chosen this show. Those
moments were sort of fun, but it's clear that this company can do more, better.
|MARCH 21, 2002|
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