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Saturday, October 29, 2011

NY Times about Liviu Ciulei

Ms. Marica Solomon signaled me the presence of a great article in the October 27 issue of NY Times on the life of Liviu Ciulei.

Mr. Ciulei (whose name was pronounced LEEV-you CHEW-lay) made films in his native Romania, but in the United States he was best known for his provocative interpretations of classic plays. Contemporary art, he once said, is one that brings all the conflicts of the world into the poem, into the theater, into the painting. And the world’s enduring turmoil often rumbled, at least subliminally, through his presentations.

Ciulei's American debut was in 1974 at Arena Stage in DC with Leonce and Lena (written by Georg Büchner), a 19th-century German absurdist political satire. The production was described then in NY Times as electric and eclectic, a sort of time capsule of world theater right up to the foolish epics of Brecht and the epic follies of Ionesco. And Liviu Ciulei was immediately recognized as one of the most imaginative directors in the world.

A Hamlet followed at Arena Stage in 1978, set in Bismarck-era Germany. NY Times called it not the triumph just of a season but of a decade.

But the most important part of the theatrical activity of Mr. Ciulei in the US was at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Here he started in 1981, with a Tempest having Prospero’s island surrounded by a bloody moat with cultural artifacts — the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa among them — floating in it. And here at the Guthrie he also directed the play that has hunted his imagination for all life: it was the play in which he had debuted in Bucharest in 1946, in the role of Puck, the play he had directed in the 1960s at the prestigious Bulandra Theatre, the play he had dreamed to put in a great movie. He didn't make that movie, unfortunately. I'm speaking about Midsummer Night's Dream. At the Guthrie, Mr. Ciulei underscored a psychological savagery and sadism in the play’s romantic roundelay, depicting Bottom, the leader of the jesterlike players, as humiliated to the core by the indifference of his royal audience. Was it a reference to the American audience that was giving him much less recognition than he truly deserved? (Many people still want the theater to be like cool lemonade when it’s hot, he once observed). Maybe he wasn't right. He had recognition, no question about it. He wanted more. He should have known that masterpieces have always been ultimately for the happy few. Was it rather a reference to his pain that he didn't render the play in a movie? It's also our pain, of those who loved his plays and his movies.

Read the whole article from NY Times at:

(Contemporary Art)



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