Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Tossed in space
Robert Lepage’s moon glows at the ART

The far side of the moon is the wounded side — and that’s where Canadian theater explorer Robert Lepage wants to go in this magisterially ingenious theater piece. A performance created for one man, some swiveling mirrors and sliding doors, a montage of projected images, a very versatile ironing board, and the aperture of a washing machine, the far aide of the moon has toured the world since its 2000 debut in Québec and been made into an award-winning 2003 film. Now, trailing the Cold War space race as a metaphor for exploration and isolation, rivalry and reconciliation, the work comes to Cambridge courtesy of the American Repertory Theatre, with the wry and delicate Québécois actor Yves Jacques standing in for Lepage, who originally walked on the far side himself, mounding balm into some personal craters as he learned to experience the vertigo of loss and the buoyancy of healing.

Lepage was apparently contemplating a multimedia theater piece inspired by Buzz Aldrin and the space race when his mother died, an event that left him feeling, he’s said, less anchored to Earth. The two inspirations converged when he came across the porthole of an old washing machine in the garbage and remembered youthful trips to the laundromat when he had envisioned such a thing as the portal of a space shuttle. And so evolved the space and family odyssey that is the far side of the moon, in which two brothers — one a nerdy, failed academic who identifies with Russia’s cosmonauts (more poetic than their American equivalents), the other a gay and garrulous TV weatherman who’s happiest when it’s raining money — navigate the gulf between them as they grieve for their recently deceased mother amid a fantasy amalgam of the mundane and the cosmic in which a small astronaut trailing umbilical tubing is birthed from the womb of a washer and later appears at an airplane window to pull a man into the void like Alice through the looking glass.

What surprised me about the far side of the moon, from which I expected a technological phantasmagoria, was its exquisite, childlike simplicity. Although it features an arresting, electrically enhanced score by Laurie Anderson, the piece seems to have its roots not in computer-generated affect but in a fledgling imagination that might indeed see Mission Control, rather than agitating underwear, behind the round glass door of a washer. True, Lepage’s vision requires a team of 10 technicians to abet its mix of mime, monologue, and mythology. And it’s not without eye pop, as when the neon-tube-striped mirrors revolve, momentarily blinding the audience, or puppet astronauts gesture to the swelling sound of blast-off. But what the far side of the moon evokes most piquantly is loneliness, a sense of being lost in space, whether racing for the moon on old film footage or racing through an exercise routine on an upturned ironing board that serves — when it isn’t doing duty as a Moped or a sick child — as gym equipment.

Essential to this aura of abandonment is Jacques’s performance, particularly as the depressive, impractical Philippe, by day fighting the losing battle of defending his thesis on Russian cosmonautics pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, by night telemarketing like Amanda Wingfield. The actor also plays glib weatherman bro André and — clad in scarf, green print dress, and very large high heels — the ghost of their mother, birthing a space-suited wee one and tenderly teaching it to walk. Lepage maintains that the brothers are opposing aspects of himself: shallow seeker of fame and fortune, introspective artist. But it’s Philippe — whether he’s arguing the difference between navigation in search of the stars (astronautics) and the more soulful navigation in search of the cosmos (cosmonautics) or meticulously preparing a video about life on his little corner of Earth for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Program — who embodies the grief and the dreaming at the center of the work.

For all its busy visuals and Anderson’s always interesting Eastern-tinged accompaniment, the far side of the moon is not without its challenges. The piece runs over two hours without an intermission, and the writing runs the gamut from the poetic — as when Philippe, his hands and face lit red, ponders his blood relation to the universe — to the banal. But the spirit of searching it embodies, both in the evocation of that pioneering race to the moon and in Philippe’s interior journey, is profoundly affecting. The ending says it all: as the actor, on the brink of reconcilement to failure and his brother, rolls on the floor at the foot of a bank of airport chairs to strains of Beethoven, his reflection in the mirrors appears to float, weightless, in space. It’s an image as gorgeous as the music, as guileless as a baby’s exercise.

Issue Date: February 18 - 24, 2005
Back to the Theater table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group