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Guernica’ offers an introspective look at man

Ellie Hall | Tuesday, February 24, 2009

“Guernica,” Notre Dame’s Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) department’s latest production, offers a deeply introspective and surrealist presentation of wrongful death, frustrated ambitions and man’s inhumanity towards man. Yiannis Lymtsioulis’ “Guernica” begins with a media-infused explanation of the circumstances leading up to the play’s start, specifically the sinking of an Albanian refugee ship en route to Italy after a collision with an Italian warship. This results in the deaths of hundreds of refugees, and one of the play’s many questions is whether or not the act was intentional. “Guernica” is set underneath the Mediterranean Sea and tells the story of four of the victims in this collision, who have drowned, but are conscious and unaware that they are dead.”Guernica” grabs you from the moment you enter the theatre, with intricate sets that almost reach to the seats of the Philbin Studio Theatre. Indeed, the production’s visual elements alone are reason enough to attend – the lighting, scenery, costumes and even the movements of the actors pull you into the watery purgatory of the play’s setting. This is not a play that provides a passive viewing experience; the actors deliberately interact with those seated in the front row and draw the audience further into a story. Director Anton Juan’s intimate understanding of the script – he translated the work from its original Greek – is apparent in the integrated nature of the performance. Audiovisual effects (music, video, off-stage narration) add to the overall experience rather than detract, as is often the case in theatrical presentations. The smallness of the cast – only five actors – highlights the strength of Notre Dame’s theatre program. These five undergraduate students present the play’s dark material with grace, heart-wrenching poignancy and impeccable Albanian accents. This play is not for those who don’t want to leave the theatre thinking or those who can’t handle heavy subject matter. It is a moving and lyrical, but admittedly difficult presentation about human nature. “The basic fear of man,” Juan writes in director’s note “… is to open his eyes in the water.” Anyone willing to embrace that fear and experience a new kind of theatrical experience should make a point to see this play. “Guernica” continues its run in the Philbin Studio Theatre tonight at 7:30 p.m. as part of the University’s international playwriting conference, “Darwin and Theatre: Migration and Evolution.” There are also performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for general admission, $12 for faculty and staff, $12 for seniors, and $10 for all students. Contact the box office at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at performingarts.nd.edu for more information.