The second evening of performances during Venice Theatre’s hosting of AACT International 2010 offered productions from Israel, Spain and right here at home with Venice Theatre’s own Loveland Follies.
The opening piece, Second Life, was presented by Israel’s Yoram Loewenstein Performing Arts Studio from Tel Aviv. The studio is an acting school located in a neighborhood with many at-risk kids; as part of their professional actor training, the students are committed to lead drama groups within the community.
Second Life focuses on one at-risk youth, Yoav, whose parents are divorced and who finds nothing in his life to look forward to. He wants another life, and finds it online in a virtual reality game, where he can “become” a rock star and find a girlfriend. But, as might be expected, this escape from reality has its own dangers.
The storyline might have been predictable (if still affecting), but the staging of the play, while simple, was also very creative, using movable open squares to suggest the grid of the computer screen and colorful flat plastic “fronts” for costumes to represent the characters’ avatars within the game they were playing. Music and movement also help to energize Second Life, which does demonstrate a peril facing youth (and adults) from around the world, not just Israel.
The second piece of the evening was a musical revue entitled Loveland, This is Your Life! Fifteen years of Loveland Follies were celebrated in this piece. (Loveland Center provides training, support and services for developmentally disabled adults, and each summer partners with Venice Theatre to present this “Follies” with Loveland clients.) From The Sound of Music to The Wiz to Laugh-In to Proud Mary, the Follies ran the gamut, and it would have taken a heart of stone not to be moved by the performers. Without knowing where each started, you can’t really know how far they’ve come to be performing live onstage, but it was inspiring to see them stretch themselves.
Now to the last performance of the evening, from Spain’s Colesterol Teatro. This one drew immediate applause before a word was spoken, with the appearance of two live chickens in a sort of enormous chain-link-fenced chicken coop. And there were certainly amusing scenes in this tale of How to Make a Man Absolutely Unhappy, featuring a man and a woman locked in a progressively tortured relationship. At least, the man feels tortured; a series of increasingly bizarre costumes and, of course, the title are clues to the import of the show, which deals with the taking away of his, um, manhood. (My high school Spanish failed me here, although I did recognize certain words like “cojones.”) Certain actions were clear enough to cross the language barrier, but this was one piece where it would definitely have helped to understand more of the torrents of Spanish being spoken.
The festival continues through Saturday; go to venicestage.com/international for more info.