BWW Review: Creativity soars in the examination of toxic masculinity in the multimedia dance play BRANDOCAPOTE at The Tank
Truman Capote interviewed Marlon Brando in 1957. The legendary actor was in Japan filming Sayonara. Hilariously, we overhear one of the movie's sales pitches. They are using "real Japanese actors." This conversation is one level of the multi-media piece BrandoCapote. On the flip side, this dance play is a commentary on men and toxic masculinity.
Scenes from Mr. Brando's films are cleverly projected onto fans and umbrellas. As the interview took place in Japan, the Noh style of theater is casually referenced here. The actors wear kimonos. Movie scenes such as a violent outburst from A Streetcar Named Desire are repeated. A voice over makes the excuse that "he worked hard for us" followed by "it was just a different time."
Snippets from unforgettable movies such as On the Waterfront, Julius Caesar and The Godfather are interspersed with repetitive movements. Meanwhile, Mr. Brando claims that he is not an actor. He is a mimic. The line drawn on stage is the connection between father and son. The violence is passed down through mimicry.
In BrandoCapote, that overt mimicry is an integral part of this dance. Brando's son Christian murdered his sister's boyfriend in 1990. She hung herself five years later at the age of 25. This piece aggressively compares the violence society accepts (or even celebrates) in popular entertainment to the collateral damage it causes in real life.
Occasionally the phrases "let me start over" and "let me get this right" are heard. What is on the stage, however, suggests that this inherent violence is an unbroken circle. Juxtaposing the effeminate Truman Capote against this backdrop paints a vivid picture of the vast spectrum of manhood.
Is BrandoCapote a play? Yes, in some respects. Brando is asked, "are you religious?" His reply: "I don't believe in imaginary friends." The movie scenes are carefully chosen to set the mood. The dance suggests many things including violence, repetition and cleaning sequences. Abstract is the name for this world.
Sara and Reid Farrington conceived this expressive and specific piece. She was the writer and he directed. There is a vast quantity of creativity on display in this seventy minute amalgam of performance art and oddly awkward yet nostalgic glimpse of men. Brando was THE actor of his generation. Lines are boldly drawn to the issues still being faced today by abusive men.
The performers play various family members but that's a loose concept. Using Noh theater as a guide, both humor and horror make appearances. The technical projections are frequent and nicely varied. The choreography by Laura K Nicoll is precise and rhythmic. There are many pauses when you hear the tape or film reels rewind. These glitches become movements by the cast which are impressively timed and jolt us from one segment to the next.
BrandoCapote is ambitious, non-linear, memorable and wholly original. It also is a play, a dance, and a historical multimedia exhibit. The entire production feels long as the messages and imagery are often repeated. Patience is advised. Not all of the segments connected in my mind such as the rearranging furniture. However, the sheer mass of creativity and research in the creation of this work is commendable. A most unique dissection of the American male psyche.
BrandoCapote is running at The Tank through November 24, 2019.