THE TRILL OF THE THRUSH
nytheatre.com review by Terri Galvin
What is the point behind modern
adaptations of beloved stories? To sprinkle restorative literary
erudition across the parched philistinism of American pop culture?
Perhaps. That is, until the Weinstein brothers tally the grosses and
forge ahead to the next costumed Gwyneth-vehicle of clipped diction and
smolderingly repressed sensuality. Here in the less mercenary realm of
FringeNYC, we can only hope for nobler motives—if not more perfect
August 15, 2002
The TRill of the Thrush reveals an obviously heartfelt esteem for its original source, "The Nightingale and the Rose." In Oscar Wilde's sublime tale of love consecrated by ultimate self-abnegation, a Nightingale overhears a callow young Student lamenting the lack of a red rose to offer his beloved. Asking in return only that the Student be a "true" lover and contending that "love is better than life," she willingly sacrifices her own heart's blood to procure the elusive blossom. The story exhibits little of Wilde's trademark arch glibness, but in questioning whether any human being might merit such immolation, it is nonetheless steeped in subtly ruthless cynicism and acute, tragic irony.
This production's highly stylized vocabulary of movement, however, feels frustratingly at odds with the depth of its thematic content. As adapted and directed by Zoe Mackler, performers glide onstage into striking tableaux, their expressionless faces dreamily delivering lines in formal, measured cadences that are seldom directed to one another but are instead impassively wafted out to an entranced, but mystified audience. At times the somnolent pace resonates with inconsolable yearning or elegiac foreshadowing, but it rarely approaches a dramatic intensity commensurate with the text. Ritualistic repetition of dialogue and echoing, whispered fragments of recorded voice-overs do little to mitigate the pervasive sense of disconnect, even during the transcendent, anguished climax.
Interdisciplinary ARts Project has created an elegant collaboration, complete with exquisite, evocative music and a skilled, impeccably pedigreed cast. In the noble tradition of Fringe experimentation, its limitations as an adaptation do not preclude satisfactions of it own, sui generis, nature. Miramax fans, on the other hand, need only await the next Merchant-Ivory blockbuster.