Theatre Gigante opened its 30th season at the Milwaukee Fringe Festival this year with a single half-hour performance. Lexington Avenue was a perfect example of precisely the sort of thing that Gigante does so well...a simple abstract narrative. Stripped of so much of the ancillary bits that bog down so many staged narratives, Gigante focused for a single half hour on a connection between two performers and two characters.
The words were by the late Frank O’Hara. The music was by Jason Powell. Gigante had turned a dramatic duet of a monologue by a poet and playwright and turned it into a beautifully operatic, little half hour onstage between Powell and Erin Hartman with musical accompaniment by Anne Van Deusen. There were simple lights. Primary colors. Simple movements. Moods, motions and emotions flitted about quite dramatically onstage between actors and characters in a story that was very vivid and intricate. The characters lived for a half hour amidst the many vicissitudes that live in love as two fall into it in an ever-changing world.
So much theatre tries to ground itself in the literal. Concrete reality IS something that feels that much more powerful on the small stage than it does on a screen of any size, but it’s far more familiar. There’s comfort in the familiar, but it can be very, very difficult to get something genuine out of a realistically-rendered plot that plays out over the course of an hour and a half or more with intermission. What Gigante did with Lexington Avenue is what they’ve done so very, very well over the course of the past ten or so years of their total thirty that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing...something primal exists in the abstractions of simple movements and bits of dialogue that no realistically grounded artifice could ever manage no matter how brilliantly rendered the sets, costuming and lighting might be.
Frank O’Hara is in good company on the coming season with the company. Theatre Gigante’s 30th includes four more shows drawing inspiration from authors Edgar Rice Burroughs and Franz Kafka, filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and the sparklingly witty 20th century German transvestite Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf. All remaining shows on the coming season take place at UWM’s Kenilworth Studio 508 Theatre.
For more information, visit Theatre Gigante online.