Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tamar, Take Two

I saw Joshua H. Cohen and Marisa Michelson's Tamar of the River for a second time on Wednesday. I enjoyed the show even more the second time around. Part of the reason why was the new ending, which I won't discuss on the blog just now. (No spoilers!) It was a marked improvement, though.

Part of why I enjoyed the piece on this second viewing was my ability to notice and appreciate little details. The physical movement of the cast is wonderful. Their use of props also adds to the choreography. For instance, they dance with long wooden rods that can become the poles of a tent or the outline of a table. At another point, they unroll long scrolls of paper, waving them up and down, and then carrying them off over the heads of the audience. Perhaps most dramatic is when they wrap Tamar in orange fabric, dressing her as a prostitute. The cast members continue to hold onto pieces of the fabric that encompass her body, creating a net of cloth around her. When Judah approaches her, it is unclear which of the two is going to be caught in this net.

The costumes also stood out more to me, and I began to see the reasons behind certain choices. Tamar's mother wears a dress with a tank painted on it. This is a symbol of the horrors of war, but also a reference to her own strength and solidity. Onan's tunic has doves painted on it, but the doves have red crosses on them, as if they are caught in crosshairs. The audience is reminded of peace and the threats to peace at the same time. His brother Er has just splotches of paint on his tunic, the indistinct pattern mirroring Er's inability to articulate his thoughts and feelings. Bardolph, the character who eggs on Onan and is responsible for much of the violence in the play, has what appears to be a bomb painted on his own tunic.

Prospect Theater Company has done a lot of good work recently, including the magnificent Unlock'd, but this might be the best thing I've ever seen them do. I'll be seeing Tamar once more at the end of its run. Expect another blog post then!