Nella Tempesta at La MaMa – Political Drama At Its Finest

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By Marcina Zaccaria

 

Conceived and directed by Daniela Nicolo and Enrico Casagrande, Motus Theatre Company presents Nella Tempesta, a brutal drama at La MaMa.

Nella Tempesta is the 3rd and final installment of the Tempest trilogy at La MaMa. Like Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Nella Tempesta involves Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and Ariel. The story and characters provide a great jumping off point for an experimental theater piece that chips away at excess in order to expose a greater debate about power, control, and freedom.

Motus Theatre Company presented Alexis, A Greek Tragedy in January, 2012. With Nella Tempesta, the company presents rigorous theater that is unafraid of the larger inquiry into dynamics of power and people. Calling out and screaming for justice is the mainstay of this drama. The actors and crew are from many parts of Italy, including Ravenna, Livorno, Milan, and Rome. That blend of sensibilities brings a complex debate to the stage. Motus also draws from experimental theater legend, Judith Malina’s, concepts during the show.

This truly international piece has a signature style. Quick, jolty runs across are typical of the dynamic movement patterns, with the actors dashing in and out of the light. Huge shadows are projected on the back wall. The white stage creates a strong canvas on which the actors explore power dynamics using enlarged images and a sense of scale.

Motus is unafraid of presenting images that speak to heart of the matter. Their discourse- although deconstructed- is not too difficult to follow, and they remind the audience about suffering, risk, and human frailty. Booming classical music sometimes keeps the tensions high, while still bringing out the core meaning from the story. Political themes, social activism, and innovative choreography are the greatest strengths of the production. At one point in the play, a woman in a spectacled, purple jumpsuit explains the nature of power, and who she is when she embodies it.

It’s refreshing to see this kind of play at La MaMa. Plays like Nella Tempesta provide exactly the kind of theater experience that keeps La MaMa so relevant. The piece has lighter moments, as well. Motus uses blankets in a transformative way throughout the production. Blankets become large capes for clothing and forts for shelter for the characters. They are also used for stunt. At one point, the actors pile blankets high, in order to climb to greater heights and jump off. The scruffy actors look like members of the American cast of television show, Survivor, stranded on an island and unable to find new ground on which to land.

At the end of the show, one of the actors takes a tree limb and seems to walk out of the theater to the subway, traveling though time. It is an effective moment of experimental theater. At the end of the piece, the actors place the blankets in formation, like a distress call, asking “Is this my Island?” Meanwhile, on the back wall, footage is projected from a protest in Rome in 2013. It is a smart political gesture, and the footage from Italy sheds light on global immigration and the nature of homeland.

Nella Tempesta is running until Dec. 21 at La MaMa at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street. For additional information, visit www.lamama.org.

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