String decomposition

Georges Bataille's Bathrobe

By Richard Foreman
Todo Con Nada and Hedgehog Theatre Co.
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Attanas

Richard Foreman's plays aren't for everyone. That's because they generally have no plot, in the traditional sense. Such is the case regarding Georges Bataille's Bathrobe, currently being performed as part of Foreman Fest at Nada.

As the audience entered the theatre a tape discussing preparedness for atomic attack played softly over the sound system. Three Readers sat behind a long desk holding scripts. The lights faded slowly, a video of dogs and street scenes plays on a TV in the corner, and the Readers began reading seemingly unconnected bits of dialogue, such as "Little tramp. I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap." And "every time I telephone someone, he's dead." Other characters appeared. One was a young man dressed as a soldier. Another was a prisoner, who wore death-like makeup. The Soldier attacked the Prisoner, beat him, and attempted to force a large Italian bread into his mouth. Then a female Clown appeared. Finally, another female character appeared. She was pregnant and also wore death-like makeup. (According to the program she is called Annabelle, although she is never addressed as such throughout the entire play.)

As the seemingly disconnected bits of dialogue continued to be spoken by the Readers, the Clown started decorating the stage with long pieces of yellow string, attaching these pieces from wall to pillar, and pillar to wall. Then the Soldier killed the Clown. One Reader rose and continued "stringing" the stage. Then pieces of the set were moved about, blocking the audience's view of the remaining Readers. Finally, Annabelle gave birth; but not to a child: rather, to a mirror, which she held as she would a baby, as the rest of the cast gathered about her. End of play.

It is very hard to say anything insightful about the story or the characters in Georges Bataille's Bathrobe, because there basically is no real story, nor any real characters. However, that is not to say that the play is uninteresting. The dialogue is oddly poetic (emphasis on "oddly"). And the work does build to a type of climax. However, such a play is only for lovers of the extreme avant-garde. If you're into theatre with a plot, put that phone down now.

The production of Georges Bataille's Bathrobe was quite good. The cast was very energetic. Notable were Alanna Medlock as the Clown, and Janna Gjesdal as one of the Readers. The piece was directed strongly by Yelena Gluzman, who used the stage to great effect and kept the piece moving. Finally, Todo Con Nada and Hedgehog Theatre Co. should be praised for even attempting a Foreman Fest. He is an extremely difficult playwright, and producing many of his works over a long stretch seems a difficult task to say the least.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 John Attanas