Willem Dafoe Goes to the Birds With Richard Foreman in Idiot Savant

The noted actor returns to the downtown stage in what might—might—be the director's last play

Dafoe doesn't dare clarify or summarize Idiot Savant. "Sense is found through the music and the poetry," he says. "You can't really explain it." But Foreman, unusually, attempts it: "This play is like a Brechtian teaching play," he says. "I am teaching that in the end everything is insane, and to babble is to say as much as to think you're saying intelligent things. . . . That's the message of this play. To be an idiot is as good as to be a savant."

All right, but can Foreman explain all those ducks—particularly the one that waddles on toward the play's end, robed in ermine and swinging a golf club? "It seemed like such a stupid character to have in a play," Foreman expounds. Then, he jokes, "This is an attempt to redeem the movie of 20 years ago, Howard the Duck." That would make for a ridiculous theatrical valediction, but it's best not to trust Foreman when he offers a simple elucidation or a clear-cut moral. Instead, expect perplexity and amusement, frustration and delight. Whether or not Idiot Savant marks the final Richard Foreman play, anticipate a rara avis.

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