BWW Review: THE MANGANIYAR SEDUCTION at Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater
The Muslim musicians in The Manganiyar Seduction come from northwestern India. Their instruments-string, percussion, wind, and voice-are traditional, as are their garments and the gestures of the singers. According to the program, the song texts concern the cycles of life and Sufi poetry. The technology for surtitles exists in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, but the production does not translate the texts for the audience. However, the company does use lighting technology and more microphones than musical instruments.
The men sit in about 30 red curtained, lighted cubicles surrounded with make-up lights. Four rows of cubicles are stacked on top of one another. The effect will look familiar to those who have seen Amsterdam's red light district, though nothing the performers do suggests that kind of seduction.
The 80-minute production starts with one stringed instrument, played cello-style. Variously sized combinations of singers and other instruments form to play melismatic music over a strong rhythmic support. At one point, mid-concert, the onstage conductor, Deu Khan, engages the audience in some rhythmic call and response. By the time the music concludes, all cubicles are lighted, and all 40+ instruments are in use.
Roysten Abel, the director/creator who created The Manganiyar Seduction in 2006, writes in the program the story of his seduction to the music of the Manganiyar by two musicians who accompanied a play he directed. While on tour, the musicians followed him when they were offstage, playing their music for him way into the night and to awaken him in the morning. He does not mention whether or not they also hauled along microphones and industrial strength amplifiers. The decibel level of the current production may seduce listeners who attend rock concerts or NASCAR races; for others, it exceeds the pain threshold.
The run concludes with two performances on Saturday, November 2; for remaining tickets, visit kennedy-center.org or call 202.467.4600.
photo: The Manganiyar Seduction, courtesy of the artist