Once home to erotic dancers, Times Square's Show World is now pretty stripped itself. A wounded holdout, the onetime sex emporium has rented space to two theater companies in an effort to stay legal. The not-so-great Persecution of Arnold Petch just finished a run at the Pantheon Theater there, and now the Collapsable Giraffe has mounted (so to speak) 3 Virgins in the former Big Top Lounge.
3 Virgins is collaged from a trio of sources: a sexual- harassment court case, the words of a spirit channeler, and the play Sapientia by Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. It's performed in the familiar, post-Wooster Group style, with tape loops, fractured overlapping dialogue, and video monitors that flash both evocative images and action from the stage.
Sapientia is an inspired choice of material. Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim was a medieval German noblewoman whose plays concerned Christian martyrdom and the battle to maintain virginity. Sapientia, the largest and most compelling element of 3 Virgins, is the story of a Christian proselytizer during the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian. In an effort to get the woman to renounce her beliefs, Hadrian orders her three virgin daughters tortured and killed. Their powerful faith, however, gives the girls a supernatural resistance. On stage, actors Lori Chodos and Makeda Christodoulos, both adults, play two of the daughters; the third is represented by a doll. On video, though, we see three young girls Jessica Trudeau, Jenny Doherty, and Katy Trudeau also reading the parts, but with a giggly innocence that contrasts sharply with the menacing stage activity. It's a wonderful doubling: combined with Sapientia's dramatic struggle, it gives the jangling 50-minute piece the kind of emotional center this sort of postmodern wizardry so often lacks.
By the Collapsable Giraffe
Plus cheap pornography afterward, if you like.
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