Stella is an actor/director/comedian.

Valancy is an angel among mortals.

 

Valancy

Shall we start with what we had in our pockets for Madame Bovary?

 

Stella

Sure! I didn’t have much. I’ve never seen a show at Curio, but I am familiar with Madame Bovary and I’ve seen a lot of (director) John Bellomo’s work. Yourself?

 

Valancy

I had a bunch of stuff going in. Madame Bovary was one of the first French novels I read in translation and inspired me to study French in college so I could read the original. I also have worked with Curio in the past a few times.

 

Stella

That’s pretty badass. I read the novel a long time ago and have seen the 2014 movie and wasn’t a fan.

 

Valancy

 

I haven’t seen the 2014 version, but I saw the French one from 20 years ago, and both loved and hated it. It’s hard to adapt something that deals so much with the inner psychology of the protagonist. 

 

Stella

How was your experience with The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary, since you know the source novel so well? I’ll come out and say I’m not a fan of “look at us being actors in a play” style that’s trending in theatre right now. It never seems clever enough to be successful.

 

Valancy

I thought the idea of using the new characters of the rat catchers to give an outside view of the story was interesting , but I agree that the breaking of the fourth wall and the actors commenting on the action is over-used now, and only draws attention to the acting and invites you to judge it. I was particularly conscious of actors playing actors in this one, and maybe that’s because another theatre company created it. I wonder if it seemed more natural in the original Peepolykus production.

 

Stella

Same. The self awareness was a bit distracting. Which is a shame, because all of the actors were present and seemed to be having a blast.

 

Valancy

 

Yes, it was such a high energy production and they were giving their all, so I felt bad that it wasn’t more successful than it was at carrying me away.

 

Stella

 

I know Bellomo is extremely well versed in commedia de’ll arte, and while I love the repetitive nature of commedia, the bits were distracting (and a tad overlong) in this piece. But, like you said, I wonder how much of that is Peepolykus and how much is directorial.

 

Valancy

I was particularly aware when Aetna Gallagher dropped her Madame Bovary persona and expressed the feelings of the actress, that it wasn’t what Aetna truly felt; there was an artifice to it. And that made the feminist ideas she expressed seem absurd, which really bothered me, because it should have been more powerful than that.

 

Stella

Oooooh. Yeah. I kind of hated that. Looking everybody in the eye and being like “I’M THE GIRL IN THE SHOW. GET IT?”

 

Valancy

It made me wish Curio had chosen to drop the “improv” style of the piece or simply improv their own “actors within a play” storyline. What you said before was spot on. It just wasn’t clever enough.

 

Stella

For sure. I’m not sure what the structure of the script is, and I’m kind of interested in that, but I’m assuming it can be altered to fit each specific cast? They clearly added a little jab at EgoPo’s production of Anna in the second act, referencing an actress “stopping the play” if I remember correctly (Which felt kind of weird, but specific) So why not adapt the “actor” characters, if you can improvise other dialogue?

 

Valancy

Yes, exactly! I liked the reference to EgoPo, which seemed in keeping with the commedia style, but it did stick out as being the one moment when they specifically altered something to make it their own. Apparently the original did reference Anna Karenina, strangely enough, but in a hypothetical sense. “It would be like stopping the train from hitting Anna by throwing leaves on the tracks!”

 

Stella

Really? That’s a fun thing to know. Also, acting wise, I do think Andrew Blasenak did a really great job navigating his actor character and his actor character acting, if that makes sense? It never felt forced or obvious. And the last moment with the confetti cannon was some top notch tragic silliness. I’ve been saying it for years: EVERY SHOW NEEDS A CONFETTI CANNON.

 

Valancy

Haha! Yes, you can never have too much confetti. I agree about Andrew — he was wonderfully grounded throughout. Sympathetic as Dr. Bovary and at ease as the actor playing him. I’d love to see him in more!

 

Stella

I agree! I actually saw his as Petruchio years ago at the Maryland Shakespeare Festival. Top notch performer. Which brings us to the design elements. Anything stand out for you?

 

Valancy

I thought Aetna, who doubles as costumer, did a great job of creating easily layered, versatile costuming for those quick changes.

 

Stella

Definitely. Sturdy and specific. And I thought Paul Kuhn’s set was magical.

 

Valancy

Paul Kuhn is the best and most unsung set designer in the city; he completely transforms every space he works in.

 

Stella

He really is. I felt like I was watching a Punch and Judy puppet show. And the rain scenes! He made it rain! On stage!!! Beautiful!!

 

Valancy

I thought the chalk boards were an excellent way to travel through time and location, and that rain trough was inspired. That was one time when I actually loved having the actors break character to manipulate the set. Rain over, slam the lid down on the rain gutter!

 

Stella

Or “Hey, we’re at le bar. Jay kay, cross out bar and put cafe.”

 

Valancy

Yes, super cute!

 

Stella

I thought Robin Stamey’s lights were practical and solid, but not flashy. I love some good string lights around a space.

 

Valancy

Oh, one thing I just thought of about costuming that I wish they had incorporated more gracefully, or intentionally, was that Madame Bovary’s skirt was so voluminous that she kept knocking chairs over and things off shelves, which should have been hilarious, but just seemed like the actress was having issues with her costume. I thought the choreography there could have been more comedic and polished.

 

Stella

It says something that the only woman onstage is wearing the largest, most unwieldy, costume. Might as well make it say something more.

 

Valancy

I should have added Robin Stamey in my list of things I had in my pockets going in. I’ve worked with her a few times at various theatres and love what she brings into the designer conversation. The lights here were really understated until that final moment with the confetti and the projections. She’s really good at creating mood with her lighting.

 

I do have to say that with all that final music, confetti, projections and death on stage, I felt like I should be leaping to my feet, and the fact that I wasn’t made me sad… because everyone put so much into the production.

 

Stella

Yuuuuuuup. And I know I’m not the easiest to please when it comes to comedy (or most things), but I really wanted the play to be funny. Like you said, they had all of the right tools and intentions, but something just didn’t seem to click.

 

Valancy

Yes, something… and I always want to put my finger on it. Do you think it was any one thing (direction? script?) or a combination of things?

 

Stella

I think it’s hard for devised work not to exist in a vacuum.  

 

Valancy

I did find it particularly hilarious, probably because I’ve tried to pronounce “Rouen,” that the conductor (Doug Greene) said “Last train to Ruin!” I thought there should have been a whole lot more plays on words and faulty pronunciation.

Yes, it makes me wonder how successful another company would be at taking a Pig Iron or a Brenna Geffers production and making it their own. I have a feeling you can’t take someone else’s devised piece and not struggle when trying to restage it.

 

Stella

That’s a pretty good bit, and you’re definitely smarter than me, because I didn’t even think about that! I liked the absurd things that kept happening (fake legs flying, actors visibly fatigued from running around the set, Chase Byrd’s “magic” tricks), but I think those were director choices? Question mark? Maybe we need to look at more Peepolykus work. PEEP at more PEEPolykus, as it were.

 

Valancy

Ha! So silly, but yes!! Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share? I guess it says something that I saw the production a couple of weeks ago and still have such a strong impression of it.

 

Stella

I don’t think so. I was kind of unsatisfied when I left the theatre (mostly because it was SO LONG) but as I’ve been thinking about it I think I liked the parts, but not the sum? If that makes sense?

 

Valancy

Yes, I agree that it felt like it should be an 85 minute, no intermission, foray into silliness with some profundity mixed in. And nothing was as silly or as profound as it needed to be. I applaud the effort and the desire, but hope for more from Curio.

 

Stella

We’re definitely on the same page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s