Sunday, June 19, 2011

Goliath: A Choreopoem

M. Scott Frank

When I tell you the plot of the choreopoem Goliath, written by Takeo Rivera and directed by Alex Mallory, you may find it cliche: David, a smart and sensitive teenager, joins the military to prove to his hypercritical father that he is a man. However, as beautifully rendered by Rivera, Mallory, and an excellent cast, there is nothing here that is anything less than fresh, honestly emotional, heartbreaking, and true. Rivera and Mallory use scenes and monologues, choral testimony and hard-hitting visuals to find new ways to say something simple but profound: war is a perversion of humanity. It has its own momentum and twisted logic and it can anti-alchemize good into evil.

Rivera explains why he needs to say that which has been said before:

Ladies and gentlemen,
this is the poem written and rewritten
because our memories last only as long as our consciences
and our consciences last as long as they're convenient
this is the poem written in Troy, in China, in Bangladesh,
in Germany, in Zaire, in America, in the Holy Land
mathematical, universal
so it can be read by all

And Rivera knows that the road to universality is careful details. David is this particular teen, with this particular dominating father, in this particular culture. Every character is multidimensional despite the brevity of the piece (forty-five minutes), and Rivera's rich, robust language says more in five minutes than many plays manage in fifty.

M. Scott Frank, as David, gives a vivid, subtle, brilliant performance as good as any I've seen in years. Although David works hard to be guarded, Frank allows his emotions and true soul to come through, and it is because we know David so well that the ultimate horror of the piece is so very very horrible. The rest of the cast is also top-notch: Samantha Cooper, Dontonio Demarco, Natalia Duong, Edgar Eguia, Elmer King, and Monique Paige.

My sole complaint about this production is that an audience discussion was started too quickly after the show ended. I, for one, needed to just sit with my feelings.

My thanks to Poetic Theater Productions Co-Artistic Director Jeremy Karafin for gently nudging me into seeing Goliath.

(press tix, good seats)

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