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Basil Twist's Petrushka – Los Angeles Theater Review  




petrushkaTheater Review 

by Harvey Perr 

published February 7, 2010 



now playing in Los Angeles at the Broad Theater

through February 7


To feel like a child again, eyes gazing with wonder upon unimagined delights, and, at the same time, to feel like a sophisticated adult, entering a world of artistic refinement and elegance, is the clearest way to describe the experience of sitting through Basil Twist’s Petrushka. This dreamily magnificent and wholly inspired recreation of the ballet Fokine created to Igor Stravinsky’s haunting musical score for Les Ballets Russes returns the story of Petrushka, the Ballerina, and The Moor to its place of origin: the puppet stage. Puppetry has rarely been this magical.


petrushkaAnd, to give you some idea of Twist’s artistry, it starts even before the red velvet curtain goes up on the puppet theater, when identical twins, Julia and Irina Elkina, both gowned in black, enter the stage and sit down at pianos on opposite ends of it, and proceed, in perfect synch with each other, as if, indeed, they were one and the pianos extensions of each other, to play Stravinsky’s "Sonata for Two Pianos." And when the curtain does rise, a swirl of abstractions accompanies the piano duet in dazzling and subtle configurations, as if the floating images were breaking away from each other and finding ways to come back together again.


At sonata’s end, the Elkina sisters rise, cross each other, -- so that they are now on the other ends of the stage from which they entered -- take their bows and exit. This is so delicately executed that, before we even know it, and before Petrushka has started, a web of enchantment has begun to be spun.


The Elkina sisters return to play their two-piano arrangement of Stravinsky’s score, and it is here that Twist’s Petrushka begins. The puppets themselves are, in a word, beautiful, but it is the manipulation of the puppets that makes them appear almost human, and it is the sensitivity that seems to course through the bodies of the black-robed puppeteers, and is delivered unto the puppets themselves, that creates the sense that it is the music that is guiding every single movement. And every movement conveys myriad sensibilities that even human dancers could never express with such complexity. Petrushka is vulnerable and fragile and floppily dignified. The Moor is virile and passionate and sexually vibrant. The Ballerina is haughty, coy, breathtakingly lithe, and can do a leap that would make Fonteyn swoon.


petrushkaThe feeling Twist displays for the music, for the creatures, for the dance of objects which evokes the carnival atmosphere which precedes the tragic ballet of the three puppets, are uniquely extensions of his own personal style and genius. But always there is the respect for what it was the Ballets Russes did so long ago. He pays tribute to their artistry just as he finds his own special way of bringing Petrushka & Company to new and enchanting life.


harveyperr @



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