Ubo Roi



Ubu Roi
prestented by Cheek by Jowl
by Alfred Jarry
directed by Declan Donnellan
Lincoln Center Festival
Gerald W. Lynch Theatre
July 22, 2015

Production websiteΒ  Β Β πŸ’‰πŸ’‰ out of 5
When a play begins with a live camera on stage projecting itself on the back wall – – I grow a bit afraid. How many times I have seen this gimmick and saw actors more worried about the image they are projecting on the back wall then making something happen between the people on the stage. Follow me for just the first few minutes of the play and you will see what I am talking about. The very monochromatic, beige stage features one man lounging on the couch playing with a live camera – – just looking into the lens and playing with the buttons. Cheerful French radio plays from the onstage radio. Then the play begins. The camera now projects onto the back wall. The man moves the camera to his face and contorts his face into many weird expressions all to the giggly delight of the audience – although I am not sure that is the point. Then the protagonist gets up and heads offstage – camera in tow. The camera takes us to other places in the house. The first stop- – the kitchen. We watch a man, obviously the father, as he chops tomatoes and then oddly squeezes the pieces with his hands to produce runny juice. Then, ever so careful, the camera turns up to reveal a booger in the man’s nose and we zoom in. β€œOOOOhh,” goes the audience. Then we head to the empty bathroom where we scan all of the walls – – landing on the toilet. Then ever so slowly we focus in on a tiny bit of excrement on the toilet lid and stay there. β€œOOOhh,” goes the audience. Then we head down and focus on the toilet mat where there are two tiny droplets of urine and we keep this in focus. You get it, audience goes, β€œOOOhh!” Now ten full minutes into the play, the family and two dinner guests arrive and finally we are off and running to see the actual plot of Ubu Roi. I am not going to take this space to recite the plot but trust me, it has nothing to do with bathroom humor. The story is told as an expressionist journey that the son is imagining as his parent’s dinner party plays out. The adult dinner guests suddenly break out of the mundane and explode into this story of death, murder, plotting and political intrigue. There conventions are quite clever in telling this story. Using pillows filled with blood like cloth strips, turning couches into a myriad of locations, the actors stretch, dance, and lacerate themselves on stage all for good theatrical fun. But, sometimes too much is too much. Of course, my row-mates, all heavy donors to the Lincoln Center Summer Series, loved the play or at least talked of loving the play as they exited but I just wonder if they too perhaps got a bit numb to the over-the-top antics. Love the French, love seeing plays by a French company in French, love seeing this seldom classic of the stage, but not so in love with the hundred and one things thrown at it.

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