nytheatre.com review by Steve Chasey
August 15, 2004
Lesbian Triptych is an engrossingly performed reading of a beautifully written piece, at times weighed down by its length and over-aggressive multimedia aspects. The language of the piece, originally written by Jovette Marchessault and translated for the stage by Yvonne Klein, is daunting, driven by image-oriented metaphors and a superb parlance. It takes Julia Brandeberry's soothing but still evocative performance, coupled with simplistic direction by James Bunzli, to make it accessible.
Brandeburry cuts through the weight of the heavier phrases by using her tone and movement around the stage to create emphasis on striking scenes, deftly maneuvering the audience’s attention and experience. The story, while a translation of a historic narrative, becomes her own; she convinces us that she is, for example, a little girl, holding a jump rope, scared to step into the street, as well as every other characterization in the performance. However, despite her execution, the cerebral nature of the language eventually drains on the viewer, especially in the lengthy first section, and occasionally lacks the sufficient punch necessary to shake the audience. By the end of the third and final section, the language starts to overload the dramatics of the performance.
Behind Brandeberry on the stage is a wall constructed of canvas stretched with hooks to fit a wooden frame. During the performance, images are projected against the canvas that further emphasize the story. The selection of static, overly-direct imagery, added to the distraction presented by their quick alternation, contrasts with the overall tone. Part of the piece's beauty is its confrontation (what it was to not only be a lesbian but a woman in history), yet in a manner that doesn't imply a time period, and thus can be applied to any. The flashing Internet-like images are a contemporary iconography, which places the performance temporally in a way the rest of the performance rightfully does not. The canvas itself, especially as Brandeberry interacts with it, is a striking and effective prop, but the images create an internal contradiction in the piece.
As a whole, Lesbian Triptych has moments of startling beauty, intensely invigorating though eventually tiring language, and a few multimedia aspects to smooth out. It has beautiful potential and the clear ability to be stunning.