MSU welcomes 'Dali'; Ruhala hosts 'Clownin''
|By Paul Wozniak|
Surrealism and spur-of-the-moment improvisation are on view at area theaters
Jos Rivera’s “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” is not the bawdy comedy its title seems to imply. It is, according to director and Michigan State University Theatre Professor Melissa C. Thomson, an “intense and passionate” piece for those open to a non-traditional theater experience.
“At its very basis, we have a woman (Gabriella) who is waiting for her husband (Benito) to come home from Iraq,” Thomson explained. “And she is concerned about trying to figure out whether or not he’s still going to be the man she actually married (when he returns home).
“It is not so much a political statement about war, but rather very much about the intense and devastating effects that it has on individual people and their relationships with each other. ”
Expressing the interior concerns of Gabriella — namely danger and desire — design elements in Acts One and Four reflect specific, iconic Dali paintings, such as the desert landscape from “Two Pieces of Bread Expressing a Sentiment of Love.” Acts 2 and 3 contrast surrealism with "hyper-reality."
But what about the ever-popular melting clocks? Thompson said that the clocks did not fit the visual landscape that they were trying to create, although they are verbally referenced. “In terms of the (visual) design that we set up, I basically just said, ‘Absolutely no melting clocks!’’’
Other characters in the play are a talking cat, a moon that plays the violin and cacti that move progressively closer to the house.
"The surrealistic world bypasses the brain and accesses the place directly in the body. So there might not be things that we understand logically, but there are things that we understand in our hearts and in our gut. I think that’s what the surrealistic landscape does," she said.
Significant sexual content means that the show is for adults only. You don’t need to be familiar with Dali to appreciate the show, but you should be open-minded, Thompson said. “If you open yourself up to the experience, I think you end up coming away with something that has a very different effect — a visceral impact that we don’t necessarily get from more traditional versions of theater.”
'References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot'
"They really don’t know anything of what I’m gonna do. I always keep that as a given, even in classes," he said. "For me, the art of improvisation really should be that. Sometimes you see improvisation and it has so much structure that you don’t get a real sense of spontaneity."
'Just Clownin' Improv!'