Prototype Theater, Virtuoso (Working Title)

Review in Issue 21-3 | Autumn 2009

The latest production from New York / North West England company Prototype offers an immensely satisfying slice of cultural history – part fantasy-idyll, part disturbing analogy of a self-contained world on the brink of destruction. A Brideshead Revisited-esque couple (perhaps siblings, in matching preposterous curly wigs) are by turns naïve and predatory in their advances toward the unwary stranger who strays into their (fantasy?) home, pleasingly rendered by an onstage scale model. Everyone here is pretending, and all is performed, often to camera – playing roles to mask their boredom, their fear and their identities, which draw from the rich context of early 1960s America on the eve of the Kennedy assassination, which would change it all.

The production’s wit is both formal and aesthetic. Writer (and director) Peter S Petralia offers us a dynamic cut-up of parody pulp, cultural history and meta-theatrical angst whose linguistic and stylistic disorientation is mirrored and amplified by the shifting planes and angles of live-feed close ups on the flat screen monitors ranged between the live performance space and audience.

The staging comprises assertively two-dimensional corners of grass and carpet that transform into illusions of depth and field in the filmed frames. This is a production which plays with our sense of performance, and our sense of emotional as well as spatial depth. Its form – televisual, intertextual, parodic, anxiously shifting – is perfectly married to its themes. If there are moments when Petralia’s script falters under the weight of its own self-consciousness the fascinating playfulness and astonishingly adroit performances from the cast, who bring their characters to humane and hilarious life even whilst constantly threatened by pastiche, ensure an exhilarating theatrical experience.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-3
p. 27