Fetes de la Nuit
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
February 11, 2010
Fetes de la Nuit is Charles L. Mee's vaudeville valentine to Paris qua "the city of love." If you are unfamiliar with this idee recue, then you are adorable and naive and I long to show you the world, so please email me immediately and we can make plans to fall in love. If, however, you, like me, are less than startled by the assertion that the French are to romance and wine as the Americans are to romantic comedies and Viagra, then you will find most of Mee's musings to be quaint and dozy. Fortunately, there is still much to enjoy in WeildWorks' vibrant and eye-catching production, currently on offer at the Ohio Theatre.
In Fetes, wine is swilled, croissants are savored, baguettes are swung, and Piaf is lip-synched. Like a spider, Mee seems to want to catch every cliche in his web of collage so that we may eye them all together—beautiful, ephemeral, accumulated, and exhausted—thereby experiencing something new. But the play—which draws on (or "pillages," as he prefers, for he encourages the pillagery of his plays as he views any text as potential fodder) Foucault, Derrida, and even footage from La Haine (the 1995 film involving a riot in the Parisian projects)—did not awaken much wonder in me. I felt as though I were being expertly guided through a city whose monuments I had already seen on the travel agency's website.
It is not the cavalcade of scenarios, but the panache with which they are played by the 18-member ensemble expertly led by director Kim Weild that makes them more than moderately entertaining. Bare-breasted in a large white bathtub and surrounded by the three Graces, Simone speaks of how human beings are essentially unknowable and that this phenomenon should not be mourned, but celebrated. A sexy seven-couple tango disintegrates into a brutal mess as lovers kick, slap, hair-pull, and hold each other out of sheer exhaustion. Henry, an American in Paris, approaches Yvette, a woman he has never met, with a marriage proposal as casually as if he were suggesting they share a cab. Lartigue, a chef, rhapsodizes over a singular duck-based recipe, and in the same cafe, Nanette demonstrates the indistinguishability of a French woman giving birth and a French woman having an orgasm.
Some of the aforementioned images—and I've only described the first 20 minutes—are contained in Mee's script, but most are conjured by Weild and company. Corinne Edgerly's Simone is a sexy, beguiling witchlike presence, watching over the entire evening. In a haunting silent scene, Khris Lewin and Jessica Green disrobe for a figure-drawing class; their poses are both erotic and elegiac, and simply captivating. One of the most refreshing and funny scenes has the understated Luis Moreno (as Barbesco, the tour guide) unabashedly showing us sites that are exclusively of personal (and for most, private) significance. John McGinty (Pierre) and Alexandra Wailes (Sophie), having no spoken words at their disposal—they happen to be deaf—conduct their combative courtship via sign language; in motion, they are fireworks, in repose, they flicker like flames.
WeildWorks' production of Fetes de la Nuit is less of an itinerary than an environment. Yes, it is a love letter to Paris, which is to say, apparently, a love letter to love. But those are just props—glasses of wine, pieces of bread. This Fetes is, as the title promises, a celebration. One that could happen anywhere. Luckily, it's happening right here.