The LIDA Project was named for a Soviet device that was supposedly capable of manipulating human brain-waves through the use of low-frequency radio, and for nearly two decades, this innovative theater company has offered productions that often incorporate technology in unusual ways. It latest effort is a modernized version of Eugene O'Neill's expressionist play The Hairy Ape, re-imagined as a one-man show; it opens tonight.
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LIDA has recently offered updates of several expressionist works of the 1920s, including Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine and Karel Čapek's R.U.R. "With this piece, we really stuck to the script in a lot of senses," says Hart DeRose, who acts as narrator for The Hairy Ape. "However, we translated all of Yank's - the main character's - role into Spanish. Every other character speaks English, furthering the isolation that the character feels. It's really a treatment on the rest of the world's inability to connect with his character. The story is of a man on an ocean liner in the 1920s; he's a stoker on the liner, and he's really proud of his job and his work. Then this woman whose father is the owner of a steel company decides that she's going to come down and see what the workers do. She comes down, and she screams because she's so afraid of him. It's very deep classism."
Lorenzo Sariñana plays Yank. According to DeRose, he will appear alone on the stage surrounded by mannequins; the play's other characters will be digitally projected onto them. Although previous LIDA productions have included subtitles projected on the walls for foreign-language sections of the dialogue, Yank's speech will not be translated. "It is particularly relevant, I think, in terms of the language barrier that we choose to continue to propagate in our culture, and what that leads to," DeRose says. "It's still very much wrapped up in wealth and lack of wealth.This is going to be an experiment in Does the acting transcend the language? Are we able to get the message across that we want to? Even with that barrier, do you connect to Yank?"
The Hairy Ape is directed by Brian Freeland, and opens at 8 p.m. tonight at work/space at The Laundry, 2701 Lawrence Street; performances continue Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 8. For ticket information, call 720-221-3821 or visit lida.org.
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