Two Contemporary Pieces For Theater
Review By: Kay Vatea
The University of New Mexico’s production of Dream Boxes directed by Bill Walters is comprised of two contemporary theatrical pieces, My Father’s House, and The Forest, The Desert.
My Father’s House is based on five Greek tragedies, Iphigenia, Agamemnon, Elektra, Orestes, and Iphigenia in Tauris. The stories are told through pure movement with no dialogue, and dream like visuals, intense sound cues, and stories whose elements overlap and circle back to each other.
I can’t say much about the story because I didn’t get it, I do not believe anyone would be able to decipher this play if they are not first familiar with the five Greek tragedies it is based on. It is not hard to see that there is a continuous narrative that runs throughout the duration of the play, but it is not clear as to what the narrative is, or who the characters are, what they are doing, or what they represent. I do not believe the muddled story was cause by the lack of dialogue. There are so many theatrical forms that do this so well. I believe the problem is the director himself. It seems to me that Walters had forgotten about the audience when directing this play. He made no attempt at making the given circumstances of the characters clear. It was impossible to tell what the characters motivations were. Walters seemed to have only thought of himself and what he thought would be cool to see rather than finding an effective way to tell the story. In essence, this is a great piece of masturbatory theater for Walters and a waste of time for the rest of us.
I think it is important to note that My Father's House is a collaboration between the theater and dance departments. For some reason it is rare to see UNM’s Department of Theater and Dance combine theater and dance, or cast dancers in theatrical productions. I hope that this becomes a constant in future UNM Productions.
The Forest, The Desert is a theatrical performance art piece based on personal narratives from Dante’s Inferno and Chief Joseph's Surrender. I didn’t quite get this on either. For me this was about forty minutes of sensory overload. There were so many things happening at once that it was difficult (nearly impossible) to tell what to focus on. The Performers are often dipping microphones into buckets of water, while others are typing away on typewriters, and when the performers speak, there are two other performers translating the dialogue into different languages at the same time. Sometimes the dialogue isn’t even in English and none of the translations are in English either This leads me to believe that the dialogue (that was difficult to hear in the first place) shouldn’t be taken literally. Now I’m back to square one and I have to figure out what all these actions mean. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to figure it out before everything changed. In the next scene they tear open pillows and blow feathers all over the stage. This was interesting at first but lasted about ten minutes too long. Then someone very slowly dumps a bag of sand on the stage.
I’m sure there was a solid concept behind this performance, but the concept was not clear. The only reason I knew this performance was based off of Dante’s Inferno is because the program said so. This is another example of Walter disregarding the audience when directing this play. The reason I get so upset by this is because as an audience member I don’t like to be ignored. I go to the theater to be entertained, to experience something, and to feel something. I don't feel like those needs were met. This is once again a great piece of masturbatory theater for Walters and a waste of time for the rest of us.
If for some reason you want to see Dream Boxes, you can see it at Rodey Theater
from Sep 30 to Oct 9.