Red and Brown
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Bell
August 15, 2004
We can see every kind of theatre in New York, from straight plays to full-blown rock musicals. If you wish to see something different and (arguably) scarcely done anymore, you might find it refreshing to see actors perform in silence. Red and Brown is this type of rare treat. Red and Brown is a mime version of an ancient Haitian folk tale that takes us back to a raw and pure way of storytelling: relying on movement. It is absolutely delightful.
The Notorious Company from Ithaca, New York performs this show. Notorious formed in 2003 with the mission to “bring poetry of everyday life to stage,” and they bring us the poetry of love in this performance. The story is of two brothers, Red and Brown, who fall in love with the same woman. Red is more explosive, and Brown is taller and more fluid. They seem to represent two sides of the human spirit: strength and passion. As they vie for the same woman, Red and Brown embark on a journey through unknown lands and seas. Once at sea, Brown is overcome with greed and leaves Red to drown. After he returns, Brown falls victim to guilt as Red’s spirit emerges to avenge himself. The brothers unite after death and consume each other, finally completing their rite of passage and attaining a higher understanding of Love.
While this all may sound hard to follow without words, thanks to the awesome commitment of the seven-actor ensemble—and the direction of Davide Giovanzana—Red and Brown is captivating. The choreography is excellent and succinct; it's so clear, it's as if we are hearing the tale from a narrator. When the play begins, we immediately see the performers changing their bodies into the old, young, or non-human. 15 masks represent different characters, and each performer complements the expression of his or her mask. As the brothers Red and Brown see the world, the performers flawlessly move about onstage to create new environments. They lift and move a blue sheet so smoothly that it becomes the sea, and they become fish. The music, arranged and composed by Mark Simon, is so vibrant that it is another character in the play. Ranging from sharp and loud to gently soothing, the music paints the picture. Marie Sirakos beautifully plays the flute onstage at one point, heightening the mood.
Davide Giovanzana directs this show with passion and beauty. Giovanzana studied commedia dell’arte and absurd theatre in Italy, Switzerland and Brussels, and his passion certainly shows in his work here. Davide has directed his cast to tell the story purely. How exciting to see a theatre group revive an ancient form of story telling.