don john

Spoleto 2009: A Theme Emerges?

At the beginning of every Spoleto Festival I have attended (that’s 18, counting this one), Festival management has claimed there is no “theme” or unifying concept for that year’s Festival. Spoleto Festival USA has always taken considerable pride in its cheerfully uncentered eclecticism, and the fact is that it’s true: the festivals don’t have a pre-determined theme.
But as sure as the sun is shining and the humidity is climbing in Charleston, a theme begins to emerge after a few days — no matter how wildly different in subject matter, in genre, and in location the performances may be.
So….what’s emerging in 2009? Here’s how it seems to me: there is a certain darkness in human nature, but it is brightened a little by an occult optimism. The brightness lurks behind the dark and keeps us from complete despair. You can see this in LOUISE, the “big” opera this year, in which even Louise’s seduction by the city of Paris (which seems at first to be an exhilarating act of liberation) leaves the viewer uneasy and unsatisfied. In KneeHigh Theatre’s DON JOHN, the hero seems to get his (ultimate) comeuppance in the end, but somehow the ending is inadequate. Even Don John’s death is not enough to make up for what he has done.
Addicted loud.jpgMaybe the picture will change as the Festival heads into its second full week. More performances could give greater shade and texture to first impressions. A glimpse at ADDICTED TO BAD IDEAS at its dress rehearsal this afternoon doesn’t lead me to think that sweetness and light are on the way. But deafness most assuredly IS on the way, if the ADDICTED audiences don’t use the earplugs SFUSA has promised to provide!