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A CurtainUp Review
Wooster Group's Poor Theatre
Wooster Group's Poor Theater At It's New York Home

The Wooster Group has brought its tribute to the group's theatrical ancestor Jerzy Grotowski, contemporary dancemeister William Forsythe and visualartist Max Ernst to its home base in downtown New York, the Performing Garage. The " poor theatre" refers to Grotowskiĺs method for creating without the "rich theatre" costuming, artifice, and "hybrid-spectacles." so that the only props availabe to the actor is himself.

The subtitle, "A Series of Simulacra. Ouroboros", has been dropped from the title since Laura Hitchcock reviewed the piece in Los Angeles. The tagline refers to the production's being structured as a series of simulacra (a representation, an image, a specious imitation or likeness of something), with Grotowski's Akropolis, Ernst's Histoire Naturelle, and Forsythe's theories of improvisation explored through the Group's telekinetic aesthetic.

Audiences here, as in Los Angeles, will be enthralled, puzzled or underwhelmed -- depending on their devotion to the company's distinctive, deconstructionist sensibility and their reaction to this particular offering.

The production did not turn CurtainUp's Eric Beckson, a "Wooster virgin," into a fan. He found that many in the audience on the night he attended were also less than bowled over by what they experienced. Still, if you're a Wooster groupie, you won't want to miss Poor Theater. Laura Hitchcock's detailed review follows the production notes below.

Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte
Artists and associates working on the project: Geoff Abbas, Ruud van den Akker, John Collins, Joby Emmons, J. Reid Farrington, Iver Findlay, Ari Fliakos, Sam Gold, Bozkurt Karasu, Ken Kobland, Christopher Kondek, Margaret Mann, Gabe Maxson, Sheena See, Scott Shepherd, Natalie Thomas, Jennifer Tipton, and Kate Valk.
Set: Ruud van den Akker
Light: Jennifer Tipton
Sound: Geoff Abbas
Additional Sound: John Collins
Live Video Mix: J. Reid Farrington
Documentary Videos: Ken Kobland
Additional Video: J. Reid Farrington, Christopher Kondek
Additional Set Pieces: Jim Findlay
Movement Coach: Natalie Thomas
Technical Assistant: Joby Emmons
Polish Coach: Zenon Kruszelnicki
Assistant Director/Dramaturg: Sam Gold
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Margaret Mann
On Video: Jennifer Tipton as herself; Maria Shvetsova as a critic
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins, wih a 5-minute intermission
Wooster Group, Performing Garage, 33 Wooster Street SmartTix 212-868-4444
From 9/14/05 to 10/15/05; opening 9/23/05

Tuesdays through Sundays at 8pm.
Tickets: $25 for Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday performances; $30 for Friday and Saturday performances. Open Seating
-- Review of Poor Theater by Laura Hitchcock
You're going to feel so informed!
--- Scott Shepherd as William Forsythe,
The Wooster Group, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, applies its polished jaunty deconstructionalism to a two-part tribute to their theatrical ancestor Jerzy Grotowski and contemporary dancemeister William Forsythe in Poor Theatre: A Series of Simulacra. Audience comments ranged from "a send-up" to to "a workshop?" The most tantalizing reaction was the audience laughter which seemed come out of nowhere at no particular object and for no special reason except perhaps an instinct to mirror the actors' joy.

This writer recognized the mirroring technique the Group experienced in a workshop they led (and I took) at the University of California Berkeley 20-something years ago. In the workshop LeCompte stood behind me and we mirrored each other's movements while looking in a mirror.

In Poor Theatre, Part One, a tiny video plays Grotowski's production Acropolis while the four cast members mimic and interpret it in the foreground. The technicians sitting at the side of the stage operating sound and light are also on stage as depicted in two video screens much larger than the little one playing the source material. The audience is also represented by a middle-aged woman listening politely but uncomprehendingly in the foreground of the tiny Acropolis video.

Part One begins with a video of the group's initial reaction to the Acropolis video of as they mime the actors in their New York Performing Garage. We follow them on a visit to Grotowski's Theater Laboratorium in Poland. The Acropolis segment is first translated from Polish by Ari Fliakos for the group, then performed, principally by Fliakos as Troy's suffering King Priam and Kate Valk singing as the prophetess Cassandra.

Director LeCompte appears on video screen as a critic who asks actress Sheena See why Acropolis is being done in Polish. See doesn't answer directly but the final segment, which equates Max Ernst's obsession with rubbings of the grooves and grains of wood floors with the parquet floors in Grotowski's Polish studio, projects a beautiful universal answer to that small pragmatic question.

Part II is funnier and more physical but rather less successful in expressing tmodern dancer William Forsythe's work, perhaps because this really isnt a company of dancers. Although Scott Shepherd as Forsyth explains the director's conviction that conventional choreography is simply a channel for the desire to dance. Wwe're fortunate to catch glimpses of the expressive grace of the real William Forsythe in the videos that line the stage.

The two parts have one statement in common. Grotowski's Acropolis contains the line, "Suffering ate your face." The Forsythe segment uses a cowboy movie as a springboard for a dance entitled "I'm Gonna Shoot Your Face Off."

The Wooster Group's mandate is to dispense with fašade, to strip theatre down to its quantum physics particles, to let the audience use artists' inspirations for its own construct. It is the passion and joy with which they fulfill this mandate that makes them unique.

LeCompte says she's going to retire and write a book. We'll read it but there's nothing like seeing it.

POOR THEATRE: A Series of Simulacra
Playwright: The Wooster Group

Director: Elizabeth LeCompte
Cast: Ari Fliakos, Sheena See, Scott Shepherd, Kate Valk
Video: Iver Findlay, Ken Kobland, J. Reid Farrington
Lighting: Jennifer Tipton, Gabe Maxson
Sound: Geoff Abbas, John Collins
Running Time: 90 minutes with one intermission
Running Dates: September 22-26, 2004
Where: Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre (REDCAT), Disney Hall, 631 W. 2nd St, Los Angeles
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on September 24.
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