Sunday, December 14, 2008

"L'Amfiparnaso" a Commedia Dell'Arte play on DVD

Speaking of things to impress people....Written in 1593, the play is based on a tradition going back an indefinite period of time before the Renaissance that has survived continuously up to the present day. The type of play is based around stock characters who interact with each other through common life dilemmas---or uncommon life dilemmas based on the amplification of those that are more common.

There are several crucial differences between this play and modern drama, the first being that the characters themselves don't speak but the words are instead sung by a chorus in vocal harmony while the actors pantomime the actions. Second, the scenes are very short and instead of being broken down in the way scenes are in modern theater they each encapsulate a specific incident. These incidents are presented in a way that makes them almost an extension of the idea of a tableaux vivant, that is to say as scenes where the importance of them isn't linked specifically to their function as the actions of characters in the play but is instead focussed on how the incident represents a universal slice of life. This means that although there is a story communicated by the succession of scenes each scene stands on its own as a commentary or dramatization of some aspect of the human condition, whether that aspect is one connected to love, or to the buffoonery of certain stereotypes of people.

L'Amfiparnaso is presented with actor Simon Cowell giving a modern english introduction to each scene (in rhyme), then with half of the scenes being staged on a stage by characters wearing masks and half of the scenes, the more serious ones, being staged outside, with no audience, and without masks, but with heavy cinematic techniques designed to amplify the meaning. All of it is sung in the original Venetian dialect with optional subtitles in English, French, and German.

The main plot, as much as their is one, has to do with a woman who thinks that her lover has committed suicide, and the resolution of what follows from it. Along the way there's a proposition made to a woman of easy virtue, another marriage arranged, some scenes that stand alone with no real connection to the plot and several scenes that have something to do with the plot but are used to dramatize more life situations and dilemmas.

The effect is spectacular.

Completely unique, completely stunning, it's a stage of theater that's almost unknown in America but that will bring up your emotions and amaze you.

No comments: