As part of their “Other Voices Series,” Manbites Dog Theater has brought in Duke Performances’ presentation of the Brooklyn, NY theater company Hoi Polloi’s rendition of a portion of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s mighty work Republic. It may be inappropriate to call this production a “play.” It is a performance piece, “conceived and directed” for three artists by Alec Duffy and written by Noah Mease. It is unusual and also entertaining, dealing with the Platonic/Socratic dialogues concerning idealism in government and morality among humans. It has a long and possibly uncomfortable opening in which the three, dressed in gauzy, toga-like costumes, all bright orange, move quickly and silently around the boxed ring that encompasses the darkened stage, weaving among the square columns which delineate the playing area.
The audience is told this was to “put the audience into another space.” It certainly does arouse our curiosity. When dialogue begins, and the lights come up, Socrates, Glaucon, and Boy discuss the building of the perfect city, as they continue weaving, sometimes changing direction, sometimes aligned, sometimes moving in opposition to one another. They then move to the three classes of society who inhabit The City, the Philosopher-Kings, the Military, and the Hoi Polloi. A wrestling lesson ensues between Glaucon and Boy, during which personal moralities are discussed.
These are provocative dialogues which, perhaps, point out why Plato remains an important part of classical thought — because no real resolutions of the ideas he pursued have been agreed upon since in the Western world.
Socrates is played by Lori E. Parquet, Glaucon by Jason Quarles, and Boy by Jess Barbagallo. It is not easy to describe the relative acting skills of these performers, since the mode is to speak unemotionally, in low volume, and unpersuasively. It is an even-handed, balanced kind of presentation that keeps the audience focused tightly on the words themselves, the rhetoric, as it were, rather than on the characters’ feelings or even their involvement in the argument. In that regard their performances are equally excellent.
Set designer Mimi Lien has recreated the agora with a mat for wrestling, and clever columns, some of which contain lights which are turned on or off remotely, and also lifted and reset to build a wall around the action. Combined with Yi Zhao’s lighting design, it becomes a stunningly effective atmosphere. The interesting costumes are created by Oana Botez.
Director Alec Duffy has kept a tight rein on these performers, virtually choreographing every move, carefully locating each speech on the stage. The piece has shape, movement, and momentum, and will stir your mind to examine some fundamental questions usually accepted as unanswerable.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 26th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/an-adaptation-of-plato-in-durham/Content?oid=3875353 and Feb. 19th Durham, NC mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/republic/Event?oid=3814908; and Feb. 23rd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=6656.
Duke Performances and Manbites Dog Theater present Plato’s REPUBLIC, created by Hoi Polloi, at 8:15 p.m. Feb. 26-March 1 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $17 ($15 seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel), except $5 students with ID.
NOTE: Advance tickets for all remaining shows are SOLD OUT, but there will be an in-person “Waiting List” in the theater lobby, starting at 7 p.m. For details about this “Waiting List,” click here.
SHOW: http://dukeperformances.duke.edu/calendar/hoi-polloi-%E2%80%A2%C2%A0republic and http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2013-14-season/republic/.
Duke Performances: http://dukeperformances.duke.edu/ and https://www.facebook.com/dukeperformances.
Manbites Dog Theater: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater.
VENUE: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater.
Republic (2014 performance piece): http://hoipolloiworld.tumblr.com/whats_happening_now (official web page).
Hoi Polloi (Brooklyn, NY theater company): http://hoipolloiworld.tumblr.com/ (official website).
Alec Duffy (founder and artistic director): http://hoipolloiworld.tumblr.com/ (Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.