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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    Chekhov Lizardbrain

    CHEKHOV LIZARDBRAIN dives into the center of an autistic mind. In twists and turns that take us from neuroscience to a domestic squabble to the circus ring, CHEKHOV LIZARDBRAIN captures a mind as it zigzags back and forth over troubling memories, attempting to mold them into neat Russian dramas. Dmitri, our protagonist, replays his memories until they are ornamented and decorated into a comforting fiction; what we witness is a kind of mental circus.

    Directed by Dan Rothenberg with text by Robert Quillen Camp and the ensemble of Dito van Reigersberg, Quinn Bauriedel, Geoff Sobelle (all wear bowlers), and James Sugg . The production features set by Anna Kiraly, costumes by Olivera Gajic, sound design by Nick Kourtides and lighting by James Clotfelte .

    The performance draws from Paul Maclean's Triune Brain Theory. MacLean noticed that when the human brain is dissected, one discovers a "paleomammalian" layer that looks almost identical to a pig or dog brain; this layer controls breathing, sleeping, hunger, and the startle response. Cutting deeper into the brain, one finds a "lizard brain" in the form of the human brain stem. This area is responsible for emotions, connections between individuals, and territorial behavior. A thrid layer is the "neomammalian brain," our large neocortex, which contains the wiring for symbolic thinking, self-awareness, ambivalence and language. In her bestseller Animals in Translation, autistic author Temple Grandin proposes that her own empathy with animals comes from an compromised "human brain" and a compensating "dog brain" and "lizard brain." Templeton notes, "here's the really interesting part: each one of those brains has its own kind of intelligence, its own sense of time and space, its own memory, and its own subjectivity."

    Pig Iron Theatre Company, founded in 1995, has rapidly become known as a unique, innovative voice in American theatre. The ensemble's physical precision, lyrical writing, and exuberant productions have earned them 36 Barrymore Award nominations in the past 8 years, a Total Theatre Award at Edinburgh Fringe, and a 2005 Obie Award for Hell Meets Henry Halfway, an adaptation of Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz's novel Possessed. Pig Iron's work has toured to theaters and festivals in London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Brazil, Romania, Germany and Italy. Works have been inspired by history and biography (Poet In New York and Anodyne), rock music (Mission to Mercury and James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris: The Lucia Joyce Cabaret), American kitsch culture (Cafeteria), and fallen heroes (The Odyssey and The Tragedy of Joan of Arc). In 2001, Pig Iron collaborated with legendary theatre director Joseph Chaikin to create Shut Eye, an exploration of sleep, dreams and consciousness. In 2006, Pig Iron was named Theatre Company of the Year by Philadelphia Weekly.

    Dates:  Oct. 2, 2008 - Oct. 19, 2008
    Schedule:  Wednesday through Sunday. Times vary. See www.pigiron.org for details.
    Venue:  The Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster Street
    Price:  $35 Friday and Saturday. $25 Wed, Thur, Sun.
    Company:  Pig Iron Theatre Co.
    Tickets/info:  (215) 627-1883


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