Prague Fringe 2014
A riveting theatrical examination of two great Spanish artists’ disparate views on life, love and modernity.
"The moments fell open and fastened
their roots on my sighs."
In the Asylum’s startling production ¡OLÉ! interweaves the light of two artists’ sacred conversation into a vibrant tapestry that will leave you speechless. Punctuated by live Flamenco guitar and the intermittent stomp Stomp STOMP of a Flamenco dancer, Ole keys in on the real life friendship of two seminal artists of the Twentieth century: the painter Salvador Dali and the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Blazing phrases like Dali’s comment on Surrealism, that “It is destruction. But only destructive to the shackles that limit our vision…” charge seamlessly beside Lorca’s Poet in New York visionary exaltation: “And crowds stagger sleeplessly through the boroughs/ as if they had just escaped a shipwreck of blood.”
As ¡OLÉ! dives into with marked temerity, a fierce enigma resides at the heart of Dali and Lorca’s relationship, namely whether or not they ever stepped (and stripped) beyond the common bounds of friendship—and were lovers. Dali’s later curt, and cryptic, statement about Lorca is typical of the cauldron of ambivalence ¡OLÉ! chucks us into:
“He was a pederast, as everyone knows, and he was crazily in love with me.
He tried twice to fuck me.
This was greatly embarrassing since I wasn’t a pederast, and I could not yield.
Besides, it hurt.
And thus the thing never took place.”
¡OLÉ!s polyphonic memetic frames are ever shifting, and it is a testament to director Paul Bedard’s fierce attentiveness that the ‘talking heads’ danger of two actors in nearly perpetual parallel monologue is resolutely skirted. Far from boring, the show is riveting. And in the impeccably well cast Lorca (Frankie Alicea) and Dali (Jake Lasser), the actors’ palpable sexual tension swells to a climax that left a sweaty audience at the edge of their seats. In fact, if the sweat had trickled onto the seats, they very well might have slipped off them.
In a thoroughly engaging post-show discussion with the director Paul Benard I learned that the show has passed through three distinct valences of production: an initial (February 2012) two hour production in New York was trimmed to a tighter (September 2012) seventy minute version, culminating in the well-polished hour long version appearing at Prague Fringe. Regarding the criteria for what was cut, Mr Bedard posited the difficulty was “deciphering the difference between the various aspects of what needed to be there: was it there because it was truly essential, or was it simply there because I thought it was beautiful? And then the trick was making the essential beautiful.”
¡OLÉ! leaves us quivering in a tight web of questions, but proves that, as Mr Bedard wisely put it “art is to be found in the wondering.” His company In the Asylum’s declared ambition is to proffer a place where “traditional beliefs are suspended and can be reanalyzed and transcended. To take volatile subjects or characters and place them in a theatrical asylum where their ideas are safe to be looked at.”
When asked about the alternate meaning of asylum, IE mental institution, Mr Bedard replied “I prefer the other meaning. I hope for a world where we’re all willing to offer each other asylum, and not lock each other in the ‘other’ kind of asylum.”
Boldly offering the right kind of asylum to two significantly edgy masters, this is essential theater, and it is beautiful.