It's always something of an adventure to venture out to Expanded Arts on Ludlow Street. At one of the smallest theatre in the City, if not the smallest (about 25 seats), one can never be sure what to expect, for the quality of the productions varies widely.
La Pucelle, a theatre piece of a merciful 55 minutes, set out to reconstruct Joan of Arc. In the author's words, "she's been through many incarnations and we are putting together pieces in order to build a self."
Three actors (Kim Hackleman, Brandy Mettert, and Karma Tiffany) and a singer (Maren Montalbano) alternately, and sometimes in unison, told a little of the story of Joan of Arc, La Pucelle (the Virgin) along with the story of another young woman in contemporary Utah, who grew up in a Mormon family there.
It was a confusing story that, rather than putting the pieces together, seemed to juggle them in a theatre piece that was difficult to follow, written in a rather dull, humorless prose that stressed women's long fight to obtain real power. For example, very brief mention was made of Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Bernhardt, Virginia Wolf, and several other powerful women who broke barriers (as well as a Utah woman who heard voices and was a lesbian). But then we heard no more about them. Moreover, there were no linkages in the piece between what went on from minute to minute in the story of Joan and the young woman from Utah, whose struggle to break away from her Mormon family actually sounded more interesting than Joan of Arc's.
The play resembled a collection of scene-study and acting exercises using a very obscure and disjointed text that was as mysterious as the Joan the cast was trying to explain. There might be the germ of a play here but it was asking a great deal of the actors and the director to explain it to the attentive audience.
The actors and director did their best with the material, and Ms. Montalbano had a pleasant singing voice and arranged pleasing music. Costumes (Alice Bee) were appropriate and director Sonda Staley made good use of the extremely small space. Sound and light (uncredited) were adequate.
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Copyright 1999 Dudley Stone