Theatre review: Beutfl Prblms – its explorations don’t reach deep enough

Part performance art, part theatre, part auto-biography and history lesson, Radix Theatre presents Beutfl Prblms, a unique interdisciplinary piece that incorporates live music, projections, video and not surprisingly the ubiquitous iPhone.

Beutfl PrblmsDescribed by the company as exploring “complexity, competition, and humanity’s evolving relationship with technology” it uses the the 1997 chess game between Garry Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue computer, in which Kasparov lost, as its backdrop.

If we were to look at Beutfl Prblms strictly in terms of what this collectively written show was intended to explore, it does so only at the surface.

What was most successful though, and perhaps only a happy by-product, is the auto-biographical nature of the piece.  We follow Artistic Director Andrew Laurenson as he makes comment on where he was during some major historical and some minor memorable moments in his life.  He recalls his first time on stage as a child in a production of Snow White, the death of Martin Luther King, our growing obsession with yoga and, perhaps not suprisingly, the creation of the first atomic bomb. In one of the more personal moments he recalls his father striking his mother while and his family watched man’s first walk on the moon.  His recollections and memories are heart-felt and hold the most emotional impact in the evening.

Unfortunately, Laurenson’s biography never quite gels with the rest of the piece and I spent way too much time trying to find connections.  Such can be the nature of this type of, dare I say experimental theatre, but with that promised exploration I was disappointed any deeper meaning somehow eluded me.

Technically the show is a marvel at times.  Lighting designer Itai Erdal once again proves he is a master with his pinpoint lights that flash on and off as the chess pieces (members of the cast and chorus) move across its plain white background.  At times, film projections from Michael Sider appear across three long white panels at the back; the projection of a large moon slowly moving across the panels at one point is simply breathtaking.

At some point between receiving the original press materials and performance night, the title of the show was changed from Beautiful Problems to Beutfl Prblms.  Ironically perhaps, the missing vowels in the title became symbolic of some of the missing purpose of the play.

3 out of 5 Stars Beutfl Prblms

Written by Andrew Laurenson in collaboration with Lesley Ewen, Billy Marchenski and Emelia Symington Fedy.  Directed by Paul Ternes.  A Radix Theatre Society production.  On stage at the Roundhouse Community Centre though May 21, 2011.  Visit http://www.radix.org for tickets and information.

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