Organized chaos, wry irony, and shrewd intelligence all flow through Normandy Raven Sherwood’s The Golden Veil. Produced by the National Theater of the United States of America, with its signature combo of low-tech theatrical wizardry and high-energy performance, the show puts the oft-told tale of a shepherdess whose virtue is compromised by a man above her station through a host of period and contemporary prisms. And using text, dance, and some terrific songs (by Jesse Hawley) that mix folk and rock sounds, the show ultimately becomes a cunning meditation on the iniquities of gender bias—as well as on class differentiations, which makes the piece surprisingly relevant for the Occupy era.
You’ll probably feel this latter sensation most keenly during the scenes involving a pair of Restoration-era nobles (Hawley and Ean Sheehy), comically brought to life as the actors perform behind the sort of painted wooden panels with cutout holes for head and hands that you might find at a county fair. During their conversations, they glamorize the shepherdess’s poverty and attempt to imagine what it might be like to actually be poor. Elsewhere, and particularly during one evocatively creepy black-and-white video sequence seen on a small lace screen (itself a veil of sorts), Sherwood’s script examines old wives tales about how woods are the places that lower, and even obliterate, inhibitions, particularly among women.
Although certain sections of director James Stanley’s production might inspire some head-scratching—notably a delirious dream sequence involving a group of forest creatures—the overall intoxication that comes from looking at the world through The Golden Veil means you probably won’t mind.