Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Europeans

Photo: Stan Barouh

The reliable and important PTP/NYC is currently presenting an excellent production of Howard Barker's The Europeans in rep with Thérèse Raquin. This small epic (not as oxymoronic as it sounds) takes place in Vienna in the late 1600s, following a Turkish invasion and war between Christians and Muslims. Barker practices a "Theatre of Catastrophe" depicting human beings in their most extreme and elemental states following violence, war, and other terrible life-changing events. Well-directed by Richard Romagnoli, The Europeans clearly fits this description, as desperate and deeply damaged people try to find sanity and connection in the ruins of their former lives. (While there is much pain in this play, there is much humor and sexuality as well.) The excellent cast, led by Brent Langdon as the emperor and Aidan Sullivan as a woman who has experienced deep physical and psychological horrors, has only a weak link or two. Mark Evancho's scenery and Hallie Zieselman's evocative lighting manage the miracle of turning a small nondescript performance area into a convent, a palace, and anything else it needs to be, giving the production the sense of space(s) it needs and often delighting the eye.

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