For theater-habituated Angelenos with an appetite for the cutting edge, the Radar L.A. Festival is more than the mere gathering of “the world's most influential performing ensembles” and “innovative Los Angeles artists” that its organizers dryly say it is.
With 17 companies in 81 performances over ten days, it represents a veritable — and bewildering — Roman orgy of avant-garde stage delights crammed into an impossibly short time frame.
And as anyone who has browsed the catalog can tell you, deciding what to see and when to see it can be like trying to solve a theatrical acrostic written in an unknown language.
Fortunately for the budget-minded, Radar, which had its inaugural edition in 2011, is again offering its popular and economical 5-pack ticket special, and the L.A. Weekly has obliged by offering the following suggestions on how to best utilize that bargain (in no particular order):
El Año en Que Nací (The Year I Was Born) by director Lola Arias
Performed by a group of non-actor Chileans who came of age during the Augusto Pinochet regime, director Lola Arias' searing documentary-theater piece already has an insider buzz as being the most powerful single production at Radar 2013. This month is the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup by the late dictator, and the piece potently drives home the human price and personal impact of that political upheaval.
Tercer Cuerpo (Third Wing) by Timbre 4
The sleeper hit of the festival could well prove to be this Argentinian entry by writer-director Claudio Tolcachir, who brings his winning brand of sardonic realism to a story of office drudgery and workplace romantic intrigue. Timbre 4's split-second comic timing is a virtuosic spin on an Argentinian ensemble acting tradition that is sure to have stage aficionados and directors and actors of any stripe spellbound.
El Gallo by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes
Mexico's multinational experimental-theater surrealists, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, take over downtown's Million Dollar Theater for this absurdist look at the creative process. El Gallo is a backstage look at the creation of an opera by a company of performers who literally can't understand each other's language (the entire show is performed and sung in a multi-lingual gibberish of Spanish, English, French and god knows what else). After joining the performers onstage during the rehearsals, the audience takes their seats in the theater to witness the results. Don't worry about supertitles — the comic genius of Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes is that you'll understand every hilarious syllable.
Clouded Sulphur (death is a knot undone) by Janie Geiser and Erik Ehn
L.A.-based puppetry auteur director and Automata gallery co-founder Janie Geiser again collaborates with playwright Erik Ehn in the latest of the duo's intimate, intricate and hauntingly expressionistic mindscapes. Geiser and Ehn's work (backed by a puppeteer and production crew of 40) is a dazzling blend of the European avant-garde as well as Asian puppet traditions — Jan Svankmajer and Bunraku come to mind — that comes seasoned with Geiser's own experimental films, object performance and an original score by composer Valerie Opielski.
Prometheus Bound by Cal Arts Center for New Performance
The name of Los Angeles director Travis Preston has become synonymous with much of what is thrillingly inventive on the city's experimental stages. And Preston hasn't disappointed in his spectacular Getty Villa production of the ancient Greek tragedy. Partly staged on a 23-foot-tall revolving wheel, the show was called “elegant and fervent” by L.A. Weekly's Steven Leigh Morris. You may call it the thinking man's Cirque du Soleil.
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