Lithuanian Showcase, Sirenos International Theatre Festival,
Lithuania's Day is a show from Audronis Liuga Productions, created by
Cezaris Grauinis. It addresses political and political issues head-on.
There's no drama, no illusion on this stage, just four actors and four chairs.
They discuss Lithuania in a sort of actorly way, physicalizing when they want
to, talking to us when they want to.
Now, theatre is better than any other art at addressing social issues, and Lithuania's history in the 20th century has been excruciating. It was glorious to see the stage shoulder its social responsibility in this production - through words, not technical tricks. The script, intelligent and articulate, discusses "the Lithuanian spirit". "National identity is not a choice; it's inherited", it proposes. "Image is everything. Image is a commodity".
The play doesn't shy away from national pain: "Our nation is fond of sorrow Our nation is fond of tears We're choking in this tiny Lithuania." Lithuania is seen as a weeping beggar, but some lines are more cryptic: "Let's nurture our barbarian values".
The specific here and now of the country is examined, from its need for Russian oil and the NATO base on its land to its president's apology for its role in the Holocaust.
When they create stage metaphors, they throw an apple around, or throw a group tantrum, or swing a baseball bat. Sitting in the front row, in fact, I was quite nearly bashed to death in that last action. I closed my eyes and could hear the whoosh of the bat over my precious cerebellum. They don't kid around in Eastern Europe.
After the various forms of stage and verbal violence, the second act is marvelously gentle. The actors tell us they're going to impersonate dead individuals, and then they do. It becomes a sort of Lithuanian Our Town, but the mood is joyous. The retrospective is over, and the cast performs a sort of healing ritual as their characters thrill to the joy of living. Europe can overcome its obsession with its history.
Lithuania's Day is certainly flawed - it's too long for its form, and some of the staging is at odds with the script. Moreover, the actors aren't totally at home with this informal style. But it's exciting theatre, straightforward and engaged.
- Steve Capra