Jan 172013
 

JANUARY 17, 2013 BY 

We admit it – when Artistic Director Hanna Bondarewska sent the Ambassador Theater’s press release for their upcoming performances at Flashpoint Gallery, our email back could be capsulized as “huh?”

See for yourselves how the clever Bondarewska had us begging to know more:

Onstage at 8pm, January 31 and February 1, 2013 at Flashpoint GalleryOnstage at 8pm, January 31 and February 1, 2013 at Flashpoint Gallery 

“Having spared no effort or cost, we present the official start of the year 2013 and a new era in the history of our theater marked with a golden stain on the sheet of History! Our dear ecstatic audience, you shall see in a moment (be patient) the first in a series of new and stunning performances. Ambassador Theater proudly presents the smallest theater troupe in the world, The Little Theatre of the Green Goose!

Enter Ray Converse, a member of the Green Goose ensemble, to explain:

Ray Converse: “These plays were written in the late 1940s by Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski , a much beloved Polish poet and humorist who is virtually unknown in the U.S.  Galczynski wrote these plays after spending all of World War II as a POW in a German camp [mainly at Stalag XI-A].

“The plays are vignettes that point the audience to the absurdities of life.  Written in the early years after the war, the plays were never performed during his lifetime for two reasons: first, he deliberately wrote the plays so they could not be staged, and second, with the onset of Stalinism in Poland, these plays were found incompatible with government-approved Socialist Realism.

“The first Green Goose performance of any kind was in the Grotesque Puppet Theatre in Cracow in 1955.

“The original intent was to do Green Goose as a staged reading.  After all the author originally did not intend them to be performed.”

DCTS: and yet, you are performing them …

Ambassador Theater's  actor (and puppet) prepare.Ambassador Theater’s actor (and puppet) prepare. 

Ray: “It quickly became clear that a staged-reading would not do justice to Galczynski’s work.  There is too much physicality in these plays for the audience to enjoy them with the artists with scripts in hand.  As a result, the original premise changed to doing a bare-bones production.  Even then, it soon it became apparent that the material needed to become more, a bare-bones production on steroids.”

DCTS: What will the evening be like for the audience?

“The separate plays are strung together with the premise that the actors are part of

a scruffy, semi-inept medieval acting troupe journeying across the country.   (It might be compared to a medieval flash mob.)”

DCTS: Hmm… interesting image.

Ray: “Each of the players has a distinct character and name which they bring to the role when they are not in their stage roles.  At curtain, the players arrive in town during a downpour as a Salvation Army Band led by a pamphlet-selling evangelist, perform their individual plays, pass the hat, and flee the town before the local constabulary can arrest them.

“The humor is slapstick on one level, but also operates on a higher level.”

DCTS: For those who like to know what the plays are about …

Ray: “Two common threads appear in many of these plays.  They play with the idea of what happens if some unplanned random event messes up the universal plan?  Without divulging any secrets, the apple in the Garden of Eden could be too tasty to share?

And, the plays explore the consequences of people feeling too strongly – boredom, loneliness, love.  Devotees of Starbucks coffee will find themselves as the leading character in one of these and will be laughing about it as they exit the theater, looking for a nearby Starbucks.”…..to read more

 

Oct 212012
 

‘Trespassing’ at Ambassador Theater by Jessica Vaughan

 


Ambassador Theater takes on trespassers and unexpected visitors with two madcap one-acts by Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag.

The first, The Visitor, tells the story of an actress and the policeman who comes to her apartment because a well-known serial killer has said he is coming after her. It’s tense and yet funny as the two discuss justice, fate, acting, and coffee, and wait for him to appear. It becomes clear quickly that all is not as it seems and ends with a fun twist. As the play went on, it was tough to tell if it was a thriller, a comedy, a philosophical treatise, or a farce, but it also didn’t matter. It was fun.

Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) and Ivan Zizek (Mahmud Suliman) in ‘The Visitor.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

The set design by Greg Jackson changes for each one-act, but both sets are sumptuous and beautiful. The Visitor features the artwork of prominent artist Agustin Blazquez. (He is from Cuba, but specializes in Egyptian art). His pieces, including an Egyptian mummy’s case, are complimented by fun things like a gilt stand telephone and a beautiful coffee set. In the second one-act, The Peephole, the set becomes more modern but no less stylish with slightly naughty hieroglyphs on the walls – and a couch set I wish was in my living room.

The Visitor, directed Gail Humphrey Mardirosian, makes full use of the stage and the set since at several points, the actors are sent around the stage searching frantically or hiding out. She keeps the pace up and the tension building admirably. Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) revels in the role of the diva who is not to be cowed but is drawn to the killer and Ivan Zizek as the visitor makes an excellent foil. For the vast majority of the play, they are alone in that apartment and they and the director and the actors work hard to keep the audience mesmerized and involved, and everything moves quickly.

Costume Designer Elizabeth Ennis chose some great pieces. Both plays’ protagonists’ costumes do not disappoint. In The Visitor, Negma Sadiq wears sheer fabrics with endless sparkles and gold. In Peephole, the main character’s more modern wardrobe includes a shiny silver shirt and a fabulous leather jacket. It was obvious a lot of thought went into each character’s wardrobe.

After intermission and the transformation of the set, Hanna Bondarewska takes over as director for the second one-act, The Peephole, which is the story of another famous actor Hasan (Ivan Zizek), as he arrives home to find a murdered woman in his bedroom. He calls his neighbor, the lawyer Husayn (Stephen Shelter or James Randle on alternate dates) who calls a psychiatrist Hasanayn (Rob Weinzimer) and a criminal (Adam R. Adkins) who can take the body away. Why they need both a criminal and a psychiatrist is because the murdered woman keeps disappearing and reappearing throughout the play. Bondarewska also plays the woman in a suitably gory, gorgeous costume.

This one-act got more and more surreal as it went on.The actors just threw themselves into their roles and seemed to relish the zinging one-liners they lobbed at each other – and the possible mental breakdowns happening all over the stage. What was fun though was how it echoed the other play.The evening is called Trespassing, and between the frantic searches, the murderer in the first play and the murdered in the second, and the central role of a telephone, it was fun to see what they included and echoed in each act.

James Randle, Rob Weinzimer, and Ivan Zizek. The cast of ‘The Peephole.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows did a great job, especially with the more surrealThe Peephole. A large part of the plot rested on her design to let us know whether the ghost (real woman? Hallucination?) was there or not. Also, in the first one-act, her warm lighting design complimented the artwork beautifully.

Playwright Alfred Farag was born in the 1950s and wrote dozens of plays still known and studied in Egypt for their dialogue and use of Arabic. Translator Dina Amin has managed to capture some of that joy of language. Both plays had some good exchanges and running jokes, like the psychiatrist answering many queries with, “In your childhood or adolescence…”

The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center’s mission is to build international cultural awareness and succeeds with these plays, not because they showed us such a different and strange world, but because the world Farag wrote about is so familiar. The laughs work on every level and two stories about famous actors and their insecurities, lawyers, and shrinks are so universal.

If you are Egyptian or American or from any other part of the world you will enjoy these two quirky and funny one-acts. Their universal messages will hit home.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with 15 minute intermission.

Trespassing plays through November 3, 2012 at Ambassador Theater at Mead Theatre Lab’s Flashpoint – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.