“When men say I’m cute and funny/And my teeth aren’t teeth, but pearl/When I’m beaten until bloody/I enjoy being a girl!” Isn’t that how the song goes? That’s the tune incendiary director Romeo Castellucci hears in Hey Girl!, his latest piece with theater group Societas Raffaello Sanzio. Inspired by a glimpse of some adolescent girls waiting at a bus stop, Castellucci has worked with Italian actress Silvia Costa to present a strange and brutal portrait of few mininity, which showed recently at Montclair State University.
Unlike his terrifying and dreamlike earlier works, Hey Girl! offers legible images with easy analogues in our world: Costa’s nameless girl is menaced by a crowd of men; she beats at the stage in frustration; she hides behind an alternate version of herself. These comprehensible scenes are the piece’s weakest. Castellucci succeeds best when he lets reality slip and permits the purely theatrical to triumph—ooze seeps from a table, glass spheres shatter at once, a laser beam bores into the girl’s cheek, a Van Eyck painting appears giant and upended. Throughout, the dolorous score by Scott Gibbons and lighting by Giacomo Gorini and Luciano Trebbi pulse with marvelous precision.
Bewitched, bothered, and occasionally beheaded, Costa’s character doesn’t speak well of contemporary womanhood. But Castellucci’s Hey Girl! is eloquent in its suggestion of what imagistic theater can accomplish. If Lincoln Center or BAM would deign to bring him to New York for a longer run, that would be something any girl could enjoy.