Fando y Lis - Arrabal '55
nytheatre.com review by Garry Schrader
August 17, 2006
It is difficult to adequately review Fando y Lis, as I saw a production so different from what its creators intended. Based on an early play of the same name by the prolific Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal, Fando y Lis tells the story of two doomed lovers ("angry Fando and his willful, stubborn Lis," say the program notes) who look to escape the brutality and squalor of their urban surroundings and seek the mythical joyous city of Tar.
This production of the brAdS company, from Italy, is not a straightforward presentation of Arrabal's play, nor is it a dance piece based on the text. Rather it is a performance piece, using patches of untranslated dialogue, stylized movement, and densely textured light and sound designs to create an atmosphere, the program tells us, "evocative of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot" (though, with its beatification of seedy but virile knife-wielding men and glamorously abused women, the play's better referent seems to be Genet—Arrabal moved to France the year he wrote this play).
As I learned after the performance, much of the play is to be staged in darkness or in partial shadow, with sudden and startling illuminations that present vivid tableaux vivants of the lovers' agonized journey. And, as staged by Monica Bucciantini with a skilled and committed cast of seven, and with David Chelazzi's bold and imaginative sound and music design, what I witnessed still retained much power. The problem was with Dance New Amsterdam's ambient light, much of it spilling onto the stage from the illuminated stair risers, meant to help audiences to their seats. Because of this, Michele Ciappi's lighting design was fatally compromised: actors were seen entering and leaving the stage, getting into place, setting props. I can only surmise that, if the proper lighting was achieved, the chiaroscuro effects would create a tension and unease that would add considerably to the world the play sought to evoke.
I have been told by someone from the company that, in subsequent performances, the stair lights were put on a dimmer that helped address, but did not quite solve, the problem. As it was, we were all, cast and audience alike, Fandos and Lises, prevented from reaching the deliverance that we sought.