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Lorca Festival likely to amuse aficionados of writer, few others

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Lorca Festival likely to amuse aficionados of writer, few others



When Peter Knox advised audiences last year to simply “let go” and let Garcia Lorca’s play “The Public” flow over them, it was sound counseling.

A book’s worth of analysis could be written about Lorca’s surrealist, symbolist drama dealing with (among other subjects) an audience’s violent reception to a failed play. Yet it proved more rewarding by far to relax and let “The Public’s” spell-casting sights and sounds bear one away.

Creator-director Knox had offered similar advice to those planning to see “A Garcia Lorca Festival,” which opened last night at Performance Network: to “simply go with it, and once you’ve let go, you’ll be taken for this really wonderful ride.”

Actually, last evening’s show is a bumpy ride at best.

While it’s both more ambitious and less successful than “The Public” — which, after all, was a single work -- the Lorca Festival strives to display the great Spanish playwright-poet-musician-artist in all his multi-faceted gifts.

The result is a rather unrhythmic pastiche which only intermittently invokes the lush, spell-casting that permeates Lorca’s poetry and short stage works.

It’s no matter that the show is tied together by no less than Lorca himself —played by arwulf arwulf — who delivers in bits and pieces a peppy lecture on the spirit of “duende” in Spanish art.

What’s duende? In American terms you might define it as “soul.” Yet Lorca/arwulf garbs it in far loftier verbosity: as “a power, not a work... a struggle, not a thought...the spirit of the earth...not forms, but the marrow of forms.”

Creator-director Knox’s exploration of such marrow leaps herky-jerkily from poetry to drama to Lorca drawings (blown up on wall-screens) to tiny “playlets” to video. A blissful highlight is the recitation by Catherine Brown and Matthew Smith of Lorca poems both in Spanish and English, aglow with dreamy symbolism of bulls, roses and Persian princes.

These are gorgeous renderings, and Johanna Broughton’s witchy lighting lends them more dark-of-the-moon mystery.

Rewarding as well is a five-minute playlet, “Chimera,” in which a husband (Jon Smeenge), leaving on a trip, bids goodbye to his wife and children.

As he departs, his spouse (Cathie Kinzel) muses on his disappearing figure in a won-drously touching soliloquy of wistfulness and lust.

Other segments are less successful. A second playlet, “The Maiden, The Sailor and The Student,” comes to little despite the presence of the bewitching Sree Nallamothu, plus Jon Smeenge in what looks like a “Star Trek” shirt. A pair of semi-theatrical “prose poems,” “Suicide in Alexandria” and “Two Lovers Murdered by a Partridge,” are unmemorable, despite the prominence of always-excellent actor Troy D. Sill.

Knox’s own video, “Trip to the Moon,” is culled from an unfilmed screenplay by Lorca. Featured artifacts include fish, murder, booze, dripping blood, genitalia, vomit, add a mysterious painted man (the ubiquitous Smeenge).

It’s fun as a kind of parody-surrealism; still this bravely mounted Lorca Festival, seems mostly to be a show for hard-core Lorcaphiles only.

"A Garcia Lorca Festival" will continue through Nov. 29 at Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St. Curtain Thursday-Saturday is 8 p.m., curtain Sunday is 6:30 p.m. For additional information, phone 663-0681.