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A Tale of a Tiger

A Tale of The Tiger Comes to New York
By Jenny Sandman
Ami Dayan
Ami Dayan (Photo: Mike Stillman)
Dario Fo's A Tale of a Tiger is a children's show (ages 5 and up) through and through. Though it's certainly enjoyable for adults, as well, they may find it a little overly simplistic -- especially those grownups who don't usually respond well to audience participation. Not the least of the play's charms is that it isn't your usual mawkish holiday fare. Ami Dayan's performance is mischievous and acrobatic. He's an animated, almost hypnotic, and he uses his sets, lights and props to great acclaim. While carrying strong political undertones, Fo's play is here presented almost as faux Fo, with Dayan's new ending one of healing and acceptance. Don't miss the opportunity to see both endings, on the Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evening performances.

Written by Dario Fo
Directed, co-adapted and performed by Ami Dayan
Set, Lighting and Projections Design by Tal Sanders
Designed and co-adapted by Miki Ben Cnaan
Music by Ran Bagno
Running time: seventy minutes with no intermission
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; 212-279-4200
11/23/04 through 01/02/05
Tuesday through Friday at 8:15 pm; Saturday at 2:15 and 8:15 pm, Sunday at 3:15 and 7:15 pm. All Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evening performances are special double-ending presentations, with Dario Fo's original ending. All tickets $35
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on December 3rd performance

--- Rich See's review of the DC Production of A Tale of a Tiger

Being a tiger is a state of mind.

The melding of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo's humorous and politically insightful one-man show A Tale of a Tiger or La Storia Della Tigre with Ami Dayan's physical delivery and alternative ending is a surprising treat that is a mix of insight and touching mischievous charm. Placed in Rorschach Theatre's space at Casa Del Pueblo it glows with an intensity that burns like a candle.

Mr. Fo is the controversial Italian actor and playwright who was refused entrance to the United States during the 1970's and 80's, has been denounced by the Catholic Church, was pulled off the air waves of Italian TV, banned by various communist governments in Eastern Europe, and has been threatened by countless officials and arrested by various law enforcement personnel who have been the butt of his scathing commentary. Along the way, he has been lauded by critics, invited to perform at Harvard University and the Kennedy Center, presented with numerous awards, and performed his works around the world. Known for his comédia del arte style and improvisational penchants, Fo has performed in public squares, warehouses, and factories in attempts to get his message across to the public: a message that advises us to question those in power and to demand an open, accessible, and people-oriented government.

Ami Dayan is an Israeli-American playwright, director, and actor who ten years ago was asked to perform A Tale of a Tiger while living in Israel. Due to the political climate in 1994, he felt the piece was too incendiary and could cause damaging violence to Palestinian-Israeli relations. And so, with Mr. Fo's approval and insight, he re-wrote the ending of the play. For Rorschach Theatre's production, Act One is the piece with Ami Dayan's ending, Act Two is Dario Fo's original ending. And both are equally inspiring.

A Tale of a Tiger is the story of a Chinese soldier in Mao's army who is left for dead by his compatriots after being wounded in a battle. Abandoned in a field of grass with a gangrene riddled leg, while slowly dying of thirst, he is suddenly swept up in a flash flood from which he must escape by crawling up a mountain side. There he finds a cave to seek shelter in, only to discover to his horror that a tigress and her cub are the resident landlords. Unable to escape and on death's door, he is literally nursed to health by the tigress. As this surrogate family develops, tiger-human communication is born and while he introduces the tigers to cooked meat, they in turn introduce him to the archetypal elements of their spirits. Once he is able to return to civilization the political overtones of piece take shape in an incredibly insightful way to what is occurring in our own country. The entire play is a fascinating rumination on politics, humanism, and mystic spirituality. And the offering of both endings adds a nice yin and yang quality to the evening.

Mr. Dayan offers a high-energy acrobatic performance, jumping and climbing over and through Miki Ben-Cnaan's jungle gym set. Ms. Ben-Cnaan has constructed a Native American looking, light brown frame to serve as the cave and hillsides of the Chinese landscape. From this frame hang animal skin-like pouches that represent the tigress' teats (I told you he was literally nursed back to health.). Ms. Ben-Cnaan's costume design melds with the set in color and offers hints of Chinese Maoist influence merged with aboriginal-like animal skins. The original music by Ran Bagno is wonderfully mystic and sumptuous. To pull us in to this enchanting world of possibility, Mr. Dayan engages the audience through out the performance for input and interaction, reminding us "There is no wall here."

Part of Rorschach Theatre's Dario Fo Festival, in conjunction with the upcoming November presidential elections, the theatre is also offering Fo's Accidental Death Of An Anarchist in October, as well as a staged reading of Allonso Vallejo's absurdist anti-war piece A Tumba Abierta. In addition, there will be readings of new plays by Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame held at the Italian Cultural Institute, which is sponsoring the festival. For those New Yorkers interested in Mr. Fo and Mr. Dayan's work, A Tale of a Tiger is moving to 59E59 in New York City in November and will be running until January 2005.

A Tale of a Tiger
by Dario Fo
Directed and performed by: Ami Dayan
Original Music composed by: Ran Bagno
Set and Costume Design: Miki Ben-Cnaan
Choreography: Robert Davidson
Lighting Design: Justin Thomas
Running Time: 2 hours with 1 intermission
A production of Rorschach Theatre
Casa Del Pueblo, Calvary Methodist Church, 1459 Columbia Road
Telephone: 1-800-494-TIXS, info 202-452-5538
THUR-SAT@8, SAT-SUN@5; $12-$18
Opening 09/11/04 closing 10/03/04
Reviewed by Rich See based on 09/18/04 performance
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