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Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents DANS CE JARDIN QU'ON AIMAIT By MARIE VIALLE

Both Marie Vialle and Pascal Quignard have happened upon a compelling story.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents DANS CE JARDIN QU'ON AIMAIT By MARIE VIALLE

It is clear that Marie Vialle finds the story of Simon Pease Cheney compelling. Her fascination with this 19th century American composer energizes her intimate Dans Ce Jardin Qu'On Aimait, now in performance at the Festival d'Avignon's Cloître des Célestins. Inspired by the novel by Pascal Quignard of the same name, Vialle and costar Yann Boudaud present a whimsical tale of redemption and artistic inspiration. If their production were in the "Off", it'd be a highlight. However, their staging never unlocks the work past historical curiosity.

Simon Pease Cheney lived in small town New York in the late 19th Century. His wife died in her late 20s. His long-standing grief over this loss brought him to kick out his daughter Rosemund when she surpassed her mother in age. Rosemund moved to New York City. In time she returned to her father, helping him with his work of transcribing the sounds of nature into music.

Vialle and Boudaud have clearly put much passion and energy into the story of Simon Pease Cheney. One can imagine them spending late nights refining the text to its essential elements. Though there's a sense that the plot is being sped-read to us. Redemption comes too easy and exile is a hiccup. The set by Yvett Rotscheid includes a copper platform, with painterly green rust stains. It also has large steel frames with draping fabrics. Joël Hourbeigt's lighting design elegantly painted the beautiful Cloître.

Both Marie Vialle and Pascal Quignard have happened upon a compelling story. Though in its transference to the stage, no individual part of the production made an argument that this must be theatre. Certain clever moments stick out. The piece begins when the omnipresent hum of the cicadas is cut off, revealing it to be nothing more than a sound cue. Sound designer Nicolas Barillot took full advantage of the space, with its two massive trees growing within it, and the piece's themes of nature. Additionally final image, Vialle playing the cello nude while reciting text from Quignard's book, is evocative. Otherwise, the work lacks either the polish or the ambition for the "In", Avignon's subsidized and rigorously programmed Festival.

Photo Credit: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

From This Author - Wesley Doucette

Wesley Doucette is a PhD student in French Literature at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses include French cultural institutions such as the Festival d'Avignon and the innovations of administrators... (read more about this author)

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