The Artists' Collaborative: Reviews

Lithuanian Showcase, Sirenos International Theatre Festival, Vilnius

The set for Bambiliand consists of six large chutes from the top of the back wall, ending in large metal pans on the floor of the stage. Various materials enter through them, including, from time to time, actors. Toy animals are scattered on lip of the stage.

The play is no drama at all. It contains no circumstances of any sort, no action or dramatic characters, no specific time or place. Its theme is clear; its concern is war. It's a complex, animated visual, using actors to present social icons rather than dramatic characters. We find a nazi, a Russian and a sheik in a sort of cabal and Queen Elizabeth shows up. But they have no lines of any importance; what's significant is their presence itself.

Words are used, though, and often well. Early in the show, a sort-of-narrator speaks of "the city" as if it were a prototype. No specific city is being referred to, and the passage suggests Greek tragedy. The passage continues " Alas cry the women wherever you meet them." Alternately, there are topicalisms, and Dick Cheney's name turns up twice.

In one passage, we hear identical cries at regular intervals, perhaps from birds and perhaps from women. It's a great moment, using a recognizable element to create a prototype.

If the iconography is sometimes familiar to us, it is sometimes invented, as when one actor, representing a sort of military leader, appears wearing a dunce cap and heavy platform shoes. The director is on shaky ground here, with a combination of elements too complex and subjective to be clear.

In its least successful moments, the production borrows from popular art. We hear bad disco music from the sound system; an actor sings "I love you" in the audience. Because the show has no solid stylistic center, it can't borrow from cheap art without being cheap itself.

Indeed, there's nothing at all holding the production's various elements together. It roams like a great politically-conscious dinosaur.

As for the title: we're told, in a political context, that the Easter Bunny brings eggs at Easter, not at Christmas, and near the show's end five toy reindeer and a skull appear. That's it.

Bambiland is immensely impressive, but its soul is buried beneath acres of stage technique. The script is by Elfriede Jelinek, an Austrian writer (and a Nobel laureate, for her novels). The set is by Jurate Paulekaite, and the direction by Yana Ross, a Russian educated at Yale (the festival staff refer to her as American). The production is presumably placed in the Lithuanian Showcase because it was produced by the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre and OKT/Vilnius City Theatre. Perhaps we shouldn't classify theatre by nationality.

- Steve Capra
September 2007

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