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Theatre Review (LA): Pericles Redux at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

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The Dax Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, has awarded grants to several Los Angeles-based groups that they feel need support to be recognized throughout the city. One such company is the remarkable No Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble that wowed the Edinburgh Festival lat year with their production and take on Shakespeare’s Pericles that they call Pericles Redux.

In the tradition of Grotowski, the production is presented in a bare space and the story is told partially through words but more importantly through physical movement and dance. Artistic Director John Farmanesh Bocca, who also plays Pericles, says that he considers his work a “mash up” of various styles and techniques he has learned in his career as an actor/dancer/athlete. His style has been compared to Fellini, Grotowski, Cirque de Soleil, Pilobolus, and Monty Python. I would add that it also reflects an understanding of classical dance, gymnastics, and Shakespearean theatre.

Pericles Redux is really a remarkable achievement. The plot retells an episodic tale of a prince as he travels around the ancient world trying to find his family. Along the way he encounters incest, silliness, pirates, tempestuous seas, death, rebirth, famine, and reconciliation. Shakespeare’s Pericles is an ideal play to translate into a physical theatre piece because it literally goes all over the map. Shakespeare may not have written parts of the play, and director Bocca felt free to add his creativity to the mix.

The cast is extraordinary, capturing the multi-sourced material and showing a mastery of all its different inspirations. Emmy-winning actress Jennifer Landon, Michael Landon’s daughter, joins the troupe in this incarnation and holds her own admirably. The three Fates — the bald, muscular, and usually bare-chested guys who drive the action — are terrific. They are played by Vincente Cardinale, Dash Pepin, and Jones Walsh. Needed comic relief comes from Alexander Rogers who plays a variety of amusing roles.

Bocca himself is an inspiration as Pericles, throwing himself about while trusting his company to provide him the backup he needs. For all the rolling about and acrobatics, none of the movement seemed repetitive, a reflection of Bocca’s dance background.

The production was an inspiration overall and I look forward to seeing more of the group’s work. Pericles Redux played at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for nine performances only, July 17-26.

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