From the Circle: ReMembering the Earth through Folktales

Remembering the Earth through FolktalesFrom the Circle: ReMembering the Earth through Folktales

Adapted by Jack Novak and the Cast

Directed by Jack Novak

Produced by Filament Theatre Ensemble

At the Den Theatre, Chicago

That hugest of clumps of soil loads me with a body, has me toiling through a life, eases me with old age, rests me with death; therefore that I find it good to live is the very reason why I find it good to die.
– Zhuangzi

Filament Theatre Ensemble From the Circle Remembering the Earth through FolktalesFrom the Circle is not just a play made up of folktales from around the world; and yet it is simply a play made up of folktales, taken from around the world.  It is at once heady and primeval, even primordial.  The show takes acting, takes theatre, back to its roots – in storytelling.  The acting is broad, archetypical, basic.  And because of this, the emotions can all the more easily seep through and affect the audience; the audience no longer needs the actor to feel for them, they find the emotions coming up from within themselves.  It is a transposition that reminds us of what real theatre is.

Filament Theatre Ensemble From the Circle Remembering the Earth through FolktalesThe play is also a statement of intent.  Filament has teamed up with Foresight Design Initiative and with this production begun to create sustainable theatre – that is, theatre with as little an environmental footprint as possible, with the ultimate goal of no footprint whatsoever.  They have taken to heart cradle-to-cradle design, attempting to give objects a new birth after they have worn out their usefulness to others.  The set, for instance, consisted of local and found wood; the costumes were made out of nothing but reused fabric and clothing and recycled, hand-made jewelry.  The idea being to pave the way to a truly sustainable method of making theatre.

But aside from the statement Filament makes with this piece, it’s compelling theatre.  It’s surprisingly moving – but, then, so are many folktales.  The director, Jack Novak, decided there were three natural kinds of stories that fit into the folktale structure: stories of creation; stories of destruction; and stories of rebirth.  Filament Theatre Ensemble From the Circle Remembering the Earth through FolktalesAnd indeed, he has more or less stuck to that structure within the play.  But it is not so simple – it is never so simple – and many stories have elements of two or all three; which only makes the tales richer, and truer to life.

And the actors do a marvelous job pantomiming and weaving a tapestry for us.  Audrey Bertaux-Skeirik, Philip de Guzman, Lindsey Dorcus and Tiffany Williams all bring different things to each story; and when another person is retelling a tale, they all listen intently.  Indeed, it seems that the actors go through as much emotional and cathartic transformation as the audience does.  And the circular nature of the piece emphasizes the totality of existence, and all the circles and cycles we love, expect, and know in our lives.

Highly recommended

Will Fink

Reviewed on 10.7.11

For full show information, visit TheatreInChicago.

At the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave; for tickets call 773-270-1660 or visit Filament’s website; tickets $10-$25; performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm; running time 70 minutes; through Nov. 13.