Theater archives

La Didone, Wooster’s Irreverent Tribute to Classical Form


With the Wooster Group’s original ensemble members mostly dispersed or deceased, director Elizabeth LeCompte has shifted focus in recent years. The free-associative mania of the group’s 1970s and ’80s pieces has given way, with her new collaborators, to a more straightforward investigation of classic theater. In 2005, Poor Theater had the ensemble faithfully—and absurdly—replicating every last Polish utterance from a grainy film of Jerzy Grotowski’s famous Akropolis. For their 2007 Hamlet, the ensemble re-enacted Richard Burton’s entire 1964 film gesture by gesture—a critique and homage simultaneously. The results were often hilarious, sometimes poignant.

La Didone, their newest piece, also makes an irreverent tribute to classical form. LeCompte merges Francesco Cavalli’s 1641 baroque opera, celebrating Aeneas’ love for Dido, with a 1965 Italian sci-fi flick about the spaceship Argos getting stranded on a zombie planet (Terrore nello spazio). The narratives dovetail nicely at many points; both sets of characters confront love and fear, loyalty and deception. Opera singers share the stage with the Woosters, and the tales eventually overlap as freely as the lutes and electric guitars do. In the end, the juxtaposition of film and opera is tame by LeCompte’s standards; everything lines up symmetrically and harmoniously—too much so. We need the Wooster Group to make trouble, but here, they go completely baroque.

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