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American attractions

Two plays that explore the theme of the underprivileged

PHOTOS: VINO JOHN

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES Magic Lantern at rehearsals

Launched in 1992, the Magic Lantern repertory has produced different kinds of plays in Tamil and English, to learn more about the self, world and stagecraft. "Veshakkaran" (Tartuffe) used koothu techniques instead of commedia del arte for shows in city, town and 25 villages. Shakespeare's Richard III appeared as "Pattam".

Kalki's epic novel "Ponniyin Selvan" with 72 actors on a multi-level setting, packed the open-air venue, and had people standing outside the gate to `hear' the play. "Moonshine and Sky Toffee" dramatised Basheer's short stories, and fulfilled the dream of reaching out to new audiences.

For the MetroPlus Theatre festival, Magic Lantern brings two American classics from absurdist and confessional literature — Edward Albee's first major play "The Zoo Story", and Sylvia Plath's feminist manifesto "The Bell Jar". Both are about the underprivileged, from a man's and a woman's perspective.

Albee's one act has a spare setting: two park benches for middle class Peter and outcaste Jerry, suggesting the Apostle and Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah plunges a guilt-ridden, squeamish, self-righteous Peter into waters too squalid for him. Peter's smugness is punctured when Jerry describes his existence, the kind of noisome hell Peter knows only through books.

The violent end chills despite — or because of — its predictability. The zoo image becomes searingly real — of men as beasts behind bars, alienated from their natural habitat, and from each other.

Autobiographical

"The Bell Jar" is starkly autobiographical, framing Sylvia Plath's sense of angst, alienation and suicide in Esther Greenwood. Adapted by Preeti Athreya for the stage, it explores the poet's troubled relationships with men and women, electric shocks both literal and metaphoric, and the final withdrawal from life.

"Remember the stillness in Kathakali when suddenly your eye catches the twitch in the actor's eye like a camera," asks director Pravin. "We've tried to create a visual aesthetics for that stillness and movement." The productions use minimalist settings to evoke intense emotions.

Pravin sees the MetroPlus Theatre Festival as "a brave experiment. I hope the vision takes it forward beyond a single year. With a three-year plan, the festival will achieve character, definitive structure and lasting impact."

GOWRI RAMNARAYAN

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