Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The Classical Theatre of Harlem revival of Derek Walcott's play Dream on Monkey Mountain has just opened off-Broadway; reviews have begun to appear in the NY press. Here's two:

The play takes the form of a hallucination, where the plot is routinely subverted and characters die only to be reborn again. It's more than a little puzzling, and the production, directed by Alfred Preisser, was understandably having trouble finding its footing during an early preview....

The production never establishes a disciplined rhythm. The pacing is erratic, with bursts of singing and dancing that serve mainly as temporary distractions from the narrative confusion. A razzle-dazzle approach may keep an audience in their seats but it doesn't unlock the theatrical meanings of a literary work that speaks in the coded language of dreams.

--Charles McNulty, in the Village Voice.

Dream on Monkey Mountain may be convoluted and more than a little opaque, but it's also consistently surprising and regularly riveting. It has a raw and ferocious heart that doesn't preclude humor, and expresses itself in unforced, openly beautiful language. It looks with complicated ambivalence at the obstacles to faith, the impossibility of revenge and the seeming inevitability of hate....

Preisser's staging sometimes favors sound over sense, and he and his actors have trouble tracing the specific emotional arcs of the play's characters.... But even though some of the details get lost, the overall force of the play remains intact, thanks to a theater group undaunted by such a tough, thorny, worthy challenge.

--Gordon Cox, in Newsday.

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