Thursday, June 25, 2015

André & Dorine by Jose Dault and Garbine Iñsausti


By Joe Straw

One can look at a theatrical presentation and come up with backstory that has little to do with the actual production.  For the fun of it, here is my backstory.

Dorine (Garbine Iñsausti) loved playing the cello.  At a very young age, in an empty music room, she stumbled upon a bow, first, and the cello second.  She looked around – saw no one – and when she slid the bow across a string, well, that made her heart dance.  She also felt a strange vibration in her stomach and on her fingers.  From then on, that “C” or “G”,  “D” or “A”, or whatever it was, haunted her, in every dream.  She was almost on her hands and knees begging her mom, a strong single woman, to let her have one, even a used one would be good to start.    

From then on, Dorine was hooked; she had to know more, searched for ways until she exceled all the way through college.  Just recently, she found a four-piece jazz collective to play with for a little scratch, money. 

Oh, when she became a young adult, Dorine was hot, and the notes she played were equally hot.  The notes accompanied her body, well, they just wafted around her arms, her breast, massaging her shoulders, and curled around her legs like bean vines around a singing cornstalk.  Music was so much a part of her life; nothing was going to take her away from it.  Nothing.

Andre (Jose Dault) had very little direction in school.  Polyester was not a clothing choice.  His mother, hesitantly and under duress, bought him bell-bottoms jean.   The fit was tight, too tight, but good if you wanted the female of the species to notice, and they did.

Then something happened in college, just a footnote of someone who appreciated his work.  He had “a flair” – albeit slight praise, but very promising. A professor made a note, decided to read his paper in front of the class as he blushed, fiery red, while sweat poured out of every polyester fiber he owned.  The smelled and heat lifted from inside his shirt to his face - and his smell, on that day, was not that pleasant.  

Now André – working as a doorman in a legit musical theatre house – was befriended by a trumpet player who played in the orchestra.  His friend, a victim of a muscular disorder, walked on crutches, was nice enough to stop by and chat. And out of the blue, man gave him a typewriter to write.  And André fell in love with that typewriter, keeping it with him day and night, typing on his murphy bed.  

The theatre got him open invitations to different venues around town and that’s when he met a certain cello player, so he hustled himself, and placed him in a position to meet her. And mentally, internally, he vociferously cleped her name, again, and again, until she stepped outside the stage door.

And then André met Dorine, life happened, they got old, and things suddenly changed.

Kulunka Teatro presents André & Dorine by Jose Dault, and Garbiñe Insausti and directed by Iñaki Rikarte, which ended its three-week run at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Spring Street.

Kulunka Teatro was created in The Basque Country in Spain in 2010.  (The Basque Country – a land mass in the shape of a heart – is the northeast region of Spain and borders France.  And, by strange coincidence, the masks are representational of characters from both countries.) 

Kulunka Teatro’s goal is to use masks to demonstrate life on stage, a type of theatrical experience that will transcend boundaries and languages in the way that music and human physicality have no barriers.

The masks by Garbiñe Insausti are twice the size of a human head, the features; the pronounced proboscis, eyebrows, and jowls are conspicuous and inspire a somber perspective. The masks are almost the same for the older selves as the younger selves except the younger ones have a tighter mask with a little more sunglow. Visually, the actors wearing the masks, looked like large puppets with invisible strings.

The eyes - the window to the souls - are behind the mask, and are dark, completely black and do not reflect the eyes of the wearer. And the color of their skin at curtain call suggests the masks were extremely hot.

“There are no words for this play.” – Jose Luis Valenzuela, Artistic Director of the Latino Theatre Company

The play is without words. Acting teachers emphasize that actors do not need the words if the intention/objective is strong.  Writers tend to disagree but, for this play, the actions define the play and confirm that the words are not necessary for a show that effortlessly travels across borders.

The actors in this production move brilliantly in the celebration of life to the end, where age robs of mental and physical faculties.  And at times the moments are so heartbreaking one want to cover one’s eyes and turn away.   

The play, presented in vignettes, starts with the older Andre working at his typewriter, still writing, as Dorine tries to play her cello in the same room.  Each in their own passionate eloquence, move as they have for many years, not otiose, but movement with a purpose, now fully aware the sound from each other’s instruments are getting on each other’s nerves. And in their wearisome repetition to complete a task neither one is able to satisfy a mental need.  

The sound of doorbell ringing, along with the punching typewriter, and the misguided notes coming from the cello, masks (no pun intended) the sounds of someone trying to get into the house.

Dorine or André pause from their work.   Their chairs squeak while competing to stay in their seat to work, for the other to get the door, and then sit back to task. Finally, when the noise of the relentless ringing becomes too much, Dorine, nearest to the door, answers it. It is their son.

The air of tension is briefly lifted as André and Dorine warmly greet their prodigy. But as that moment passes, they start fighting over him pulling him to and fro. André wants the son to read his new book, while Dorine ambles into the bedroom to fetch an egregious red patterned sweater for her son to wear.  

The son takes their action in stride but one sees a character that did not get much attention in his formative years with his mother busy with her music and his father always writing and never taking the opportunity to be with his son.

And with “no words,” the son’s character projects a fascinating life on stage.

And a simple moment – the son noticing Dorine shirt buttoned incorrectly – foreshadows her pending health issues.

In the third vignette, the son takes Dorine to the doctor’s office; when they enter the waiting room, they find a rogue patient who is sitting in the middle of three seats scratching vociferously.  Dorine has no problem sitting next to him on one end and implores her son to take a seat. But the son has a problem with catching any creative chigger that may fly off this miscreant’s body and embed itself deeply within the cavity of his own groin.

Naytheless it is in the office, the son becomes aware of Dorine’s illness.  And later, when he presents it to his dad, André, André ignores the letter and gives his son the new book he has written.

Moments accumulate as Dorine hangs her coat on the cello rack. Seeing the changes in Dorine, André reminisce about their meeting, her infatuation with his words, and their marriage.  

Jose Dault, Garbiñe Insausti, and Edu Carcamo bring a fantastic life to each character, André, Dorine, and son. There are other characters but there were never more than three characters on stage so one suspects there were only three actors in the play. The nurse seems a lot taller than the rest of the cast members and it’s hard to know how the messenger boy was done because he appeared much smaller.

The masks made the actors bigger than life and they physically rose to the occasion with aplomb.  This was a fantastical, no holds barred, whimsical expression of life that asks us to take a look at another human being and to take stock in the wonderful creation before you.

Wonderfully directed by Iñaki Rikarte with images of life that will steal your heart.

And as Dorine stares into nothingness and rubs the bow, a forgotten instrument against the back of her hand, the images on stage jump out for a dramatic impact, of the coat on the cello rack, the mess in the bathroom, soiled linens, sitting alone, hair disheveled, and wearing her clothes backwards, And after trying to overcome the obstacles, André just shrugs his shoulders and escorts her toward the door to venture out, warts and all.   

And the most important feeling that I took with me was that André really loves Dorine and would do anything to help her. And that was a beautiful feeling to take home.

The music by Yayo Cáceres, Music Composer, was very European and very divine.

Other members of this remarkable crew are as follows:

Set Design: Laura Gómez
Light Design:  Carlos Samaniego
Costume Design: Ikerne Giménez
Photographs: Gonzalo Jerez
Music Composer:  Yayo Cáceres
Assistant Director: Rolando San Martín
Technician:  Arturo López