Martha Clarke pays dark homage to Pirandello
Martha Clarke’s KAOS, based on four short stories by Luigi Pirandello, provides an alternative to all those dancing sugarplums and animated nutcrackers that arrive to create a sense of warmth and wonderment among theatergoers this season; it’s a decidedly chilly affair, which both haunts and frustrates as it contemplates the dark cruelty of life.
Clarke creates striking stage pictures on Scott Pask’s Italianate set, but her directorial choices often undermine her choreography, stunningly lit by Christopher Akerlind. When two dancers whirl through a moment of vicious sexual intensity, it’s a strain to concentrate on them in addition to an elderly woman who’s describing how one of her sons was conceived. Unfortunately, to understand the woman’s words, theatergoers must shift their eyes from the dancers to a high corner of the theater’s back wall to read the unbearably faint surtitles for this Italian-language production. Splitting focus creates an unshakable sense of distance from the piece, so that even lighter moments, such as when a dying man perpetrates a clever ruse to ensure that his final wish is met, never completely engage. An exception is a story centered on a woman who discovers that her husband goes insane with each full moon. Here, KAOS vibrates eerily with concentrated fear and lust. Not the hallmarks of the season but satisfying nonetheless.