Theater review by David Cote. Public Theater (see Off Broadway). Written and directed by Richard Foreman. With ensemble cast. 1hr 5mins. No intermission.
Settling in at Richard Foreman’s Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance) is like stepping into the Ontological Theater at St. Mark’s Church circa 1994. The proportions of the Public may be more generous, but the déjà vu is intense: There’s a string-traversed set of curiosities, glassy-eyed actors, assaultive lights and spooky basso profundo voiceovers. Forget the man’s innovations in neo-Dadaist stagecraft; Foreman has discovered the theatrical fountain of youth. Sheer nostalgia for his changeless vision will make you feel decades younger.
Still, if pressed, I would say his new piece strikes a more wistful and subdued tone than most of the 17 Foreman shows I’ve seen over the past 20 years. Old-Fashioned Prostitutes is typical in its brevity (65 minutes) and patchwork script of non sequiturs, but it also sustains a more lyrical, mournful air. Samuel (Rocco Sisto) seems to be lost in a European city (Paris, most likely), and his cadence has a Southern lilt reminiscent of Faulkner or Williams. Representing, we might assume, the traditional ladies of the night are willowy and seductive Alenka Kraigher and Stephanie Hayes, who adopt Garboesque and Betty Boop–ish stances, respectively. Foreman’s theater is not exactly actorcentric, being a dense weave of interruptive light and sound cues, but Sisto is still mesmerizing, as are the femmes fatales—who are not really that fatal to stoic, questing Samuel. Being a master of atmospherics, Foreman evokes horror and heartbreak with sliding walls and distant, offstage telephone chimes.
The avant-garde auteur’s turtlenecked acolytes will, I suppose, find something novel here. Pseudo-intellectualism thrives on the verbose and baroque articulation of the obvious, but I’d rather put it bluntly: Foreman is back to whore it up with language, theory and perception. What a heady, disorienting ménage à trois.—David Cote
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