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Ritter, Dene, Voss or When Your Family Is Too Close For Comfort

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La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in association with Toronto's One Little Goat Theatre Company presents the New York premiere of Ritter, Dene, Voss.  Written by Austrian playwright, Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) and directed by One Little Goat's Artistic Director, Adam Seelig, Ritter, Dene, Voss explores the greatest threat to a family's existence - itself.  Ritter, Dene, Voss runs from September 23 to October 10, 2010 in a limited engagement at the La Mama E.T.C.'s First Floor Theatre.

Ritter, Dene, Voss is a delicious Beckett-meets-Brechtian farce.  Thomas Bernhard explores the themes of sexual repression and familial rivalry (a fun combo) with great resolve and humor.  Ritter, Dene, Voss introduces us to two sisters, who are part-time actresses and full-time heiresses.  They are charged with the societal reintegration of their tormented genius brother Ludwig, a part-time philosopher and full-time grandstander, who has returned from a mental health institute.  The result?  They swallow each other alive.  

Genius is never attained and mama issues rear their ugly heads from every nook and cranny of the house. Camille Paglia would have a field day with Ludwig and his sisters.  This is comic gold (as long as it's not happening to you, of course)!

Every once in a while, you get a reminder of why you're in this business.  For me, that was Ritter, Dene, Voss.  I have to admit that I had not been exposed to Thomas Bernhard until last night.  Frankly, I found his work hilarious and occasionally hitting a bit close to home (I'm referring to his commentary on the artistic world, not the mama issues).  There were enough actor and artists jokes to give solace to even my emptiest of bank accounts. 

For a play based deeply in the genre of poetic theatre, I really found this play wonderfully approachable.  I haven't enjoyed the text of a play like this in while.  Although it was written in 1986, it was exciting to "discover" it last night.

The directing was spot on.  Seelig kept it simple and let the text speak for itself.  The set was uncomplicated, just a dining room table and chairs.  There also wasn't one extraneous prop, sound or light cue.   Everything fed the story and its characters.  I have to give kudos to Seelig for assembling a great production team to make his vision come to fruition.

Finally, I would be remiss not mention the superb acting.  I haven't been this engrossed by a performance in a while.  Seelig did a great job of assembling this group of young Canadian actors.  If you don't know them yet, you will soon.  The cast (Shannon Perreault, Maev Beaty and Jordan Pettle) did a splendid job of basically digging into the text and just going for it.  Simple Acting 101 at its finest!  

Here's an interesting factoid. Apparently all of Bernhard's scripts are written without a single punctuation mark.  It only has line-breaks to indicate cadence.  In turn, this particular cast had to explore and interpret the text more than one would have to do with a more" traditional" script.  Perreault, Beaty and Pettle met the challenge and then some.

You only have until the 10th to check out Ritter, Dene, Voss.   I promise, you will go away laughing (even if you're also the broke artist lampooned in the play).  For more information about Ritter, Dene, Voss or other La MaMa events, visit www.lamama.org.  For more information about One Little Goat and their work in poetic theatre, please visit www.onelittlegoat.org.


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From This Author Trish Vignola

Trish Vignola comes to BroadwayWorld New York from BroadwayWorld Chicago. When she is not reviewing Theatre, Trish also writes for MLB.com and the Yes Network. (read more...)