Basil Twist's Petrushka – Los Angeles
THE WAYS OF ENCHANTMENT
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.
And, 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
The 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 @ stageandcinema.com