nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
June 29, 2008
Lasanta is a non-linear stage noir that uses shadow puppetry, live jazz music, movement, text, and projections to explore the dynamic between men and women. The director's note in the program leads one to believe that this work is an in-depth look into the nature of love and beauty, yet all I really got out of it, on that topic at least, was that men are brutes and women are sex symbols.
This is not to say, however, that Lasanta is not interesting or engaging. This play has a lot to offer visually. Director Madeleine Bernatchez has created all of these compartments on the stage. The apron of the stage is used for some scenes, and then some curtains are pulled aside or a scrim is lit, and you'll see one, two, or three little cubicles. To the side, there's a little nook for the band. And up top, there's a curtain that pulls aside to reveal the projection/shadow screen. You never know where the next action is going to take place (personally, I was always rooting for another shadow play sequence and got very excited when that curtain opened). By having all of these small constricted areas, Bernatchez actually creates room to have a lot of surprises as well (such as a woman's legs protruding from the ceiling of one of the cubicles).
In Lasanta, two men play Alvarez and seven women play Rose. They don't appear to each be showing some different part of the character's personality, but are rather interchangeable, and the feeling I got from it was that all men, in the world of this play, are pretty much the same and all women are pretty much the same. Both Alvarezes are 1940s detectives, dame-hungry, a little dangerous, and very suave. The seven Roses are pretty, have a bit of an attitude, and use their sex appeal to get what they want. Film noir is cool and sexy, but Lasanta doesn't take the extra step to dissect it or do something new with it. There are a lot of sequences of repeated movements, choreographed by Shannon Gillen, but if they are intended to do anything other than move the plot forward, I wasn't able to get it. The shadow play, while really creative and fun to watch, also didn't really illuminate any more meaning for me. However, the costumes, designed by Kara D. Midlam, are lovely and creative and and I loved that the three cubicles were covered in the same material as the main dress the Roses wore, so they were almost camouflaged at points.
It was fun to have a live band. Katie Porter, the vocalist for Lady Lucille, as they're called, has a very nice voice that certainly fits in with the 1940s film noir aesthetic. However, everything fits in too well, and for my taste it became monotonous to have the same film-noir rhythm accompanying everything. This is true not only of the music, but also in the slow, deliberate pace at which the actors recite the text and perform movement sequences. The result is a performance that drags, which detracted from my enjoyment of some very cool movement sequences.
Lasanta is interesting, and there are a lot of different things going on in a lot of different mediums, however the cohesion is lacking, as is the depth of the ultimate meaning behind it all.