Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Quest for the Woman He Never Knew: A Review of All the Names, Quantum Theatre's April 12th 2015 Performance

Quest for the Woman He Never Knew
Review of All the Names, Quantum Theatre's April 12th 2015 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and PositivePittsburghLiveMagazine.com
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  April 14, 2015

With the sound of every eerie gong, the Quantum Theatre’s world premiere of All the Names kept the audience moving towards the light, falling deeper and deeper into the life and mind of Senhor Jose. In this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s Nobel Prize winning book All the Names, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, we are reminded that everyone has a story. Small objective parts of that story are kept in official records and the rest is in the hearts and minds of those we interact with over time.

He said he must know what happened to her. But it seemed more an obsession. And why her? Of “All the Names?” As a clerk at the National Registry, he had seen millions of names pass by, including celebrity names and information that he personally documented for hobby. But her file with discrepant and missing information, led Senhor Jose, played by James Fitzgerald, on a tangled investigation. It was a quest that would challenge the square introvert’s inner sense of purpose and place in the vast world we live in. Answers led to more questions, and more questions started to cut deep and personal. The line between right and wrong became blurred as he justified abusing his access to official documents and avoided being caught by the stoic Registrar, played by CMU Assistant Professor Cameron Night.

As Senhore Jose’s every decision and indecision is weighed out, his conscience is brought to life by actor and writer Mark Conway Thompson. Senhore Jose’s conscience is always with him, like a shadow. As his quest grows more complicated and he becomes more emotionally entangled, it becomes hard to tell whether it is he or his conscience that is at the helm. Along his journey he meets two women, both played by Point Park Instructor Bridget Connors. In the course of providing leads for his investigation both women ruffle his square demeanor and challenge his emotional frailness. We see into one of the women’s mind by her conscience also being personified, not mistakenly played by the same actor as the Registrar.

Actors playing multiple characters, omnipotent narration, and exaggerated sets that were almost like installation art, skewed the hierarchy of exactly which character’s course we were seeing play out. At times the audience spied down on the characters from second floor balcony. We sat across an oversized desk from the Registrar staring down on us, feeling small, inconsequent, and judged, just as Sehore Jose. Other times we were amidst the journey in a huge dark room transformed into a dreary abandoned school, where a cachophony of ghostly whispers chilled the air and walls were covered with names in chalk of those who had been there before – including mine now.

We walked amongst file boxes and documents seemingly suspended in midair. It transported the audience to a dream state where the line between reality and imagination blurred. The vastness and somewhat disorganization of the national registry poured over into the turmoil and chaos of the characters consciousness and the boundless ether of Senhor Jose’s mind –or even one’s own. A trippy talking ceiling really brought the threshold of sanity into question. Becoming Senhore Jose, some audience members were instructed to sit, sit in his place to hear investigation testimonies. This world premiere adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel All The Names could not have been so exquisitely brought to life without artistic contributions of several talented people. Quantum’s Artistic Director Karla Boos, and Dramaturge Megan Monaghan Rivas, were committed to bringing this complex story to life. Each member of the small cast was intense and commanding. The masterful scenic design in the original Carnegie Free Library by Barbara Luderowski and Narelle Sissons was technically enhanced with lighting effects by Cindy Limauro; fantastic and engaging multimedia projections by Joe Seamans and enriching sound production by Chris Evans and Sarah Pickett.

After staying for the post performance discussion, some audience members shared that they found the work to be akin to Kafka’s works, filled with loneliness, inner turmoil, and the repressive confinement of societal convention. Artistic Director Karla Boos shared the inspiration and evolution of bringing this story to stage and it was clear that this project was an original and creative passion. And one that paid off. My friend Sandra, who went to the performance with me, said the real life little lambs were a nice touch. It is not your conventional play, it is absolutely excellent. The show is mesmerizing!

Additional Performances:
April 15th - May 2nd  |  8 PM  |  Heinz Hall
For more information and tickets visit quantumtheatre.com

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com 2015

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