LE LIVRE BLANC: THE WHITE BOOK
nytheatre.com review by Kevin Connell
I loved this piece. It’s strange using the "L" word so freely, but it’s
an honest expression marking the respect I hold for Chicago’s The
Journeymen Theatre Company and their production of Le Livre Blanc:
the white book, presented at the Greenwich Street Theatre, as part
of the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival.
August 15, 2003
Jean Cocteau’s Le Livre Blanc: the white book was written and published anonymously in France in 1928. It is a semi-autobiographical account of the love affairs of a young man in the early years of the last century. Frank Pullen’s adaptation is written in a narrative style bringing to mind Stephen Spender’s letters to Christopher Isherwood and the more contemporary diaries of composer Ned Rorem. It is an honor to witness a performance of this Modernist play, taking into account the risks taken by Cocteau to write so honestly about same-sex desire in a time when homosexuality was most certainly an unspoken hidden reality.
The company of actors includes Jean-Paul Menou, Timothy Klein, and Joseph Krstyen. Menou handles the narrative text beautifully as he brings to life Cocteau’s mirror image of himself. Klein and Krstyen effectively move throughout the piece portraying a multitude of lovers, intimates, and desired adolescent boys and young men.
The production is guided by the sensitive hands of director Pullen, who tells this story through the simplicity of a gesture, the ease of a pose, and the honesty of a moment. Stephen Arnold’s lighting design finds its success in the subtlety of each transition as he illuminates Cocteau’s characters in the shadows of light. Ian Goodman’s original music evokes a Parisian cabaret with a seductive period accuracy.
If you enjoy narration spoken as text and care for a glimpse into our hidden gay past, this is a production you must see.