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The Green Bird (a play we saw at U MD)

Saturday saw us desperately seeking a play - any play - that we could get to without having to do any driving into DC's less friendly downtown areas. See, the young lady has to watch a play every quarter and write a review for her school program. We'd hoped to hit some Shakespeare downtown (Metro-able), but left it 'til too late - all sold out.

So we ended up seeing a student production at University of Maryland (College Park), The Green Bird. It was originally a Commedia dell'Arte play from the late 18th century in Italy, written by Carlo Gozzi (who also wrote more famous stuff, like the story for Turandot). And actually, this was a good choice because it was a helluva lotta fun ...

Pic from the Green bird - read caption for details
(top) the poet-seer, the Queen Mother, the King; (bottom) Barbarina, now a poor little rich girl

It's a fairy tale story spiced up with social commentary, smutty dialog and pantomime, and in this case with modern little political wisecracks. The King has gone to war, leaving behind his wife, who is about to give birth to twins. After the babies are born, the jealous Queen Mother stuffs the poor Queen "down the kitchen drain" and gives the babies to one of the twin Pantalones, with orders to slit their throats. The Pantalone is too soft-hearted, so the brother-sister twins are wrapped in waxed linen and thrown into the river, from which they are rescued by the nagging but kind-hearted wife of a sausage seller. They grow up to be a pair of philosophical intellectuals, Renzo and Barbarina, who are eventually cast out by their foster father as useless. Magically, they gain riches, and the returning King (after 18 years!) sees the girl (whom he does not know is his daughter) and wants to marry her. The Queen Mother, to thwart the marriage, takes the advice of her poet-seer and enflames Babarina with lust for the magical Singing Apple and the mystical Green Bird, so she sends her brother Renzo out a-questing ... many mix-ups and much hilarity ensues.

The costumes and acting were hysterically over the top. Barbarina and Renzo tiptup about like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, analyzing their foster mother's kindheartedness, and indeed all virtues, as self-love ("You rescued us for the good feeling you got for doing a good deed - self love!"). There were not one but two living statues - one of whom becomes the object of Renzo's lust. The twins' foster parents show up after the kids become rich and get taken in as wisecracking sidekick servants. People travel to the magical garden for the Apple and the ogre's lair for the bird via the "puffing devil," who poofs them along with his bellows. The apple tree is guarded by Serpentina, who wears a wildly silly sexy-evil sorceress get-up in pewter and black. The tree itself is composed of the Apple itself and the three-member Apple Corps (ouch!), who all sing a beautiful quartet about the dangers of seeking the Apple. And so on ... .

It was certainly worth the cost of the tickets.

This business of apples reminds me that I got all excited about the scene in Saiyuki Reload when Goku throws Gat something that I thought was an apple. I was prepared to expound on how this is some more purposely inside-out Western symbolism, re the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and how this makes Gat think about his role in Hazel's doings.

Then I leafed back through Saiyuki and found Gojyo buying some apples that were more clearly apples, because there's even a discussion about their beautiful red color. And these are drawn much differently, more like the so-called Red Delicious (badly named ... them are some yucky apples), taller and with lobes, almost. So I guess Goku tossed Gat an Asian pear, and there goes my symbolism down the drain.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
Whoa, those costumes are fantastic!!

Don't write off your symbolism too quickly! I went back and looked, and that's not an apple, it's a nashi pear! They're laden with delicious symbolism~! I forget what they're called in Chinese (I think it's "li"), but it's the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for "separation", so it's bad luck to share one or give one to someone because it's an omen that either the giver and reciever will no longer be friends, or that the reciever will lose the person they love. But in other parts of China where they speak a different language or dialect, giving somebody a pear is good luck because they're a symbol of fullness and good luck. And like peachers, pears are symbols of immortality.
Mar. 13th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)

Yah, I liked the style of the costumes. At first it reminded me a bit of the original costumes for Pippin, but those were more hippie-dippie. These are like Renaissance costumes run through a Carnivale filter. Gotta love that pointy-boob bodice on the Queen Mother - I bet it took several rehearsals before people stopped bumping into those things! Barbarina and Renzo's fancy rich costumes were robes/surcoats that wrapped around their simple tradesmen's outfits - the new pieces were put on them by other characters while their "palace" (some simple gingerbready scaffolding, a fancy chaise-longue, and a hanging lamp, plus an outdoorsy bit with Renzo's beloved statue) was flown in/rolled in from the wings.

Re the Saiyuki thing - whoa, look at that, I was noticing symbolism I didn't know existed ....! (You are such a good friend! > HUG < )

- Cho

Mar. 14th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
That bodice is a deadly weapon! I like the stylised, candy-colored Renaissance look, though. It looks like a really cool play, and I had never even heard of it! (I knew Turandot, or course... I love the costumes for that, too)

Minekura makes you hyper-attuned to symbolism! I bet that's a bit of foreshadowing that most of the Japanese readers won't get either, because nashi have positive connotations in Japan. Minekura certainly seems to delight in the obscure...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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