The Performance Network has once again brought challenging altemative theatre to the community. Theatre Grottesco, an international company of performers, has been touring in the United States and the Western World for the past three years. Their work draws upon many traditions, including commedia deirarte, Greek tragedy, European expressionism, dance theatre and performance art. "Fortune" is their first full company production created entircly in the United States, and is the first specifically about America. They brough the play to Ann Arbor in late April. Watching "Fortune," it is the images, created by Thealre Grottesco's understanding of the physicality of the stage, that stick. The narrativo, however, is nevcr as compclling as these images. Poles and platters are through the air and meet in a rhythmic clatter, while the performers, their faces blank, work to establish the complex machinery of a fortune cookie factory with these simplest of elemcnts. A table, covered with a white tablecloth, is moved from place to place on the stage, creating with each space a new and different setting. And the actors work with such precisión timing that the movement of the table is as much a part of the scène as the dialogue it splits up and separates. Dark red wine is poured into a glass, overflowing onto the white tablecloth, accenting and illuminating the triangle created between the impoverished young man who writes fortunes and the young husband and wife that help produce the fortune cookies. And the masks, oversized and white, with their lumps and angles, are so effectively used by Theatre Grottesco's performers to find and build a series of characters - lovers, loners, parent and child - each in turn ed by the messages of the fortune cookies. The images in "Fortune" are sometimes funny, sometimes moving, and often simply entrancing, but if you find them difficult to follow in terms of story or narrative, you're not alone. The audiencc watches the small factory become enormously sucecssful after it hires a new writer of fortunes. This success alters the relationship betwecn the workers and boss, Mr. Vincent; and bctween the fortune writer, Mcrik, and Mr. Vincent. Mr. Vincent's rising greed is depictcd in a wonderful scène drawn direclly from commedia. Mr. Vincent, in mask, enters carrying a jingling purse, then counts the money and discovers a coin missing. His mounting hystcria as he searches for the coin is bolh comic and rcvealing, and is wondcrfully played by John Flax. Merik finds the coin, which informs the action in the scène that follows, in which Merik asks for a 50% share in the profïts. In the most confusing sequence. Mr. Vincent is in the hospital with a heart attack (the rcsult of his greed), where he is visited by the workers. After the other workers leave, the young husband stays to give the boss a gift. The gift is a fortune cookie that opens to reveal a thin red ribbon, which he hands to the boss. The boss, continúes to pull out the ribbon, to the sound of a beeping heart machine, as the light slowly fades on the scène. The next scène is the young husband's funeral. It is a beautiful and intriguing image, the boss pulling the life's blood from the young worker - but nothing in the rest of the play supports the power of that image. These powerful images don't ultimately créate a narrative cohesive enough to support the ideas the play suggests. But the images make for an entertaining evening of thcatre, theatre that is significantly different from that generally available to Ann Arbor audienecs.
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