September 22, 2008

Ecotone Taps Vein of Isolation in Improv Staging of ‘Quarantine’

By Aurelio Sanchez Journal Staff Writer

When it comes to improvisation, what could be more fertile ground for an improv performer than a series of dream sequences written by Tennessee Williams, one of the 20th century's premier playwrights?

To fuel the imagination of dance improvisation still higher, why not base the performance, loosely, on an obscure, surreal play -- "Camino Real" -- that Williams wrote in 1953? The dream sequences are part of the play.

Don't stop there. Next, title the improvised dance theater performance "Quarantine," a symbolic reference to the isolation felt of a small dance performance space at the q-Staff Theatre in Albuquerque, the venue where Ecotone Physical Theatre will stage the play.

With all of these accoutrements, what, then, do you have? Who can say?

Whatever it is, if past Ecotone improv performances foretell, it will be compelling, and entertaining, said Kevin Paul, assistant director and performer of Ecotone Physical Theatre. "Quarantine," he added, will have a live music sound score.

Formed in the spring of 2006, the New Mexicobased Ecotone performance ensemble has staged several improvised dance theater works that have been well received, Paul said.

"It's ('Camino Real') one of Tennessee Williams' minor plays, about a bunch of people who are trapped in a town that could be called a metaphor for purgatory," Paul said.

"We're not producing the script; we're remixing it, using just bits of dialogue and character."

In fact, most people probably won't recognize what play is being loosely adapted, he said.

When Williams, considered the greatest playwright of his generation, wrote "Camino Real," a few critics praised it, while others panned it, and some thought he had descended into some surreal realm of infernal influence or hellish hallucination.

Set in the main plaza of a poor, Spanish-speaking town encircled by desert with sporadic contact with the outside world, "Camino Real" had many visitors, including literary figures, who appeared in dream sequences.

They included Don Quixote and his partner, Sancho, Casanova and Lord Byron. A recurring theme in the play was the idea of coming to terms with getting older and feeling irrelevant, Paul said.

"It is a difficult play to translate, but it's got some rich material that we feel we can translate," he said. "We feel like we can take anything and improv it into our performance."

Ecotone Physical Theatre is a performance ensemble that "mines the veins of improvisation, sonic, kinesthetic, textual, visual," Paul said.

"Each performance is unique, a blend of slapstick (comedy) and drama, angular sound and gesture, rife with potential for hap and mishap," he said.

Ecotone makes extensive use of computers and digital technology, random props and costumes, as well as sometimes reluctant audience participation, he added.

"We don't really know what will result, but we do give ourselves a tool kit of elements to pull out," he said. "We're really dedicated to improvisation at the heart of our work." If you go

WHAT: Ecotone Physical Theatre performs "Quarantine"

WHEN: Thursday and Friday, Sept. 25-26, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: q-Staff Theatre, 4819 Central SE

HOW MUCH: Tickets $10 general admission and $5 students. For reservations, call 255-2182

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.