By Howard Barker
Directed by Nicole Wiesner
At Trap Door Theatre
Howard Baker’s Theatre of Catastrophe well represented in Minna
Continuing their tradition of doing obscure and challenging work, Trap Door Theatre opens the 2010 Chicago theatre season with Howard Barker’s provocative Minna. Part of the genius and part of the built-in problem with Barker’s work and Minna, in particular, is Barker’s notion that an audience should share several responses to onstage events. Therefore, Barker tries for complex, ambiguous and unstable responses by mixing comedy with tragedy and by blending time periods–here 18th Century melodrama with 1950’s intensity–as he blends satire of war and violence with sexual perversion from estranged lovers.
His shows are definitely a challenge and under the innovative direction by Nicole Wiesner, and featuring creative costume design by Beata Pilch and Nevena Todorovic, Minna evolves as a weirdly enticing theatrical experience. The cast, especially Geraldine Dulex (Minna) and Kevin Cox (Tellheim) throw themselves into the weird world of estranged lovers, violence and sexual adventure. What hooked me and kept me involved in this densely complex and often bewildering show was the imaginative staging. The cast tackled with Barker’s contrary styles with mixed success. At times, screaming substituted for emotional pain and over dramatic speech for satire or sarcasm.
But the bravery, intensity and sheer energy carried the day. Carl Wisniewski (Just), Derek Ryan (Landlord) and John Kahara (Werner) did yeoman work in this show. Minna is a theatrical experimental piece that pushes the boundaries of theatre moving it back toward a rebirth of pure tragic theatre or so Howard Barker hoped. The staging and powerful performances will impress. I’m sure as the production continues, the cast will reach deeper depths of honesty thus making for a more intense tragic experience. Take a chance on this Theatre of Catastrophe production–it’ll stir you up.
At Trap Door Theatre, 1544 W. Cortland Ave, Chicago, IL, tickets $20, (2 for 1 on Thursdays), runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through February 13, 2010