By ARDEN KASS
Teatro La Tea, 107 Suffolk St., 2nd Floor, NYC
April 26 through May 13, 2006
Direction and Mask Design by LORCA PERESS
Set and Costume Design PETER JANIS
Visual Design ELISABETH FRALLER
Lighting Design TITO BISONO
Choreography CARLOS FITTANTE
Music DAVID AVRAM
Production Stage Manager SARA BANCROFT
Press and Publicity SCOTTI RHODES
Bliss – Candace Waugh Myers
Laura – Blanche Baker
Coyote – Carlos Fittante
Natasa Babic, James Birch, Belén Cascón, Gonçalo Faria
Yuki Kawahisa, Nadia Rahman, Saskia Seligman
KNOWING BLISS is a multimedia theatrical experience that uses dance, imagery, music and dramatic scenes to tell the story of a daughter and her mother on a journey to discover the past in hopes of uncovering truth. Set in summertime southwest U.S.A., and full of both personal and socio-anthropological inquiry and debate, the play, in many ways, typifies the modern struggle to define ourselves. DNA replaces nature in the nature versus nurture debate.
Bliss is the resurfaced daughter who, after two years of absence, has reconnected with her mother, Laura for a birthday celebration, of sorts. A PhD candidate, Bliss, who has been brought up believing that she was adopted, has traced her genes back to a lost tribe and has brought her mother to the desert her ancestors once inhabited to find the intangible something that will put her life in perspective. Candace Waugh Myers’ moody, insecure and politically/socially indignant Bliss is a natural contrary to Blanche Baker’s airy, comic and self-assured Laura. Together, these performers drive KNOWING BLISS.
The design here is a testament to less is more, or that a theater company need not have endless funds to suggest the scene they want. Set in a national park, much of the landscape is suggested by projections and the dancers, who both represent the landscape and actually become it. When the actors are made to climb ancient ladders, the images are projected on screen as they climb more modern, metal versions on stage. It works.
Lorca Peress directs KNOWING BLISS with an obvious respect for what playwright Arden Kass has envisioned. Though in the process of trimming some overly long scenes, Ms. Peress, also MultiStages Artistic Director, has employed her company’s signature multidisciplinary approach to theater to bring this production to life.
The lesson of KNOWING BLISS is that often our perceptions of who we are have a basis in who we believe ourselves to be or what we think we should be based on race, ethnicity and gender rather than the circumstances we have been raised in. If Bliss believes herself to be a disenfranchised Native American, will the outrage she feels for her people and the tribal tattoos she gets replace the Southern, White household she grew up in? A little bit the chicken or the egg, for sure, but very thought-provoking.
- Kessa De Santis -