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Gallaudet University: Eastman Studio Theater

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m.

They Say:

SONATA: The Naked Theatre Project is a concert theatre adventure for the uninhibited audience. A collection of plays that embrace, explore, exploit and expose actors out in the open to reveal the essence of character. It’s acting in the nude.

Marshall’s take:

SONATA: The Naked Theatre Project is nothing if not daring. Like a microcosm of the whole Capital Fringe, audiences get a wide sampling of genres: drama, comedy, dance, horror, slapstick … The sole throughline is writer/director/sound designer/actor Solomon HaileSelassie’s vision of theater with as little language as possible — what he calls “the Naked Theatre Project.” As with Capital Fringe, some parts will work for you and others will not, but you’ll leave with something worth talking about.

In his director’s note, HaileSelassie calls the show “the Sonata concert” and divides its nine movements into a trio, a dueto, another trio, and finally a single, stand-alone movement. Together they present HaileSelassie’s exploration of his virtually text-free concept over the course of three years, and it is fascinating to take the journey with him.

He leads with the trio: Hi. Yes. Okay. Sorry. A comedy, drama, and horror all attempt to tell their stories using the smallest vocabulary possible. The only words they use liberally are the four in the trio’s title: “Sorry, hi.” “Okay.” “Ah, yes, sorry.” “Okay, yes,” etc. Though the horror was a mystery and the comedy not much clearer, the simplicity of Repast, the drama segment, vindicates the concept. With no superfluous information to get in the way, the audience’s attention is locked on Gabriel Macedo (Anthony) and Stephanie Svec (Samatha), and their intensity cuts through the language barrier.

With Hi. Yes. Okay. Sorry. behind them, the audience is prepared for the SILENCE! dueto, which has no lines whatsoever. Son of a Father meanders around drama and black comedy, as the entire cast minus HaileSelassie stands tongue-tied before a grave. But it’s HaileSelassie earliest movement, Toilet Humor, written in 2012, that makes the most of the wordlessness. Three unnamed characters (Inés Domíngeuz del Corral, Gabriel Macedo, Stephanie Svec) go to their separate bathrooms around the stage and engage in distinctly private moments. The sounds of rapture and torment build to a climax, with both death and la petite mort making appearances.

Next, the Soundtrack trio pairs its movements with music by composers ranging from Ludwig van Beethoven to Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist William Butler. Adolescence in the Park stars Sydney Lawson (Prosperina) performing a provocative dance. In the Dirt demonstrates del Corral’s range by casting her as the teenaged Samuel coming to terms with Nathaniel’s (Gabriel Macedo) cancer. Heighten by Butler’s music, their story is enough to win back any audience member who strayed during the preceding movement’s physical theater. Jersey Shore tells the story of two slapstick custodians squabbling over a beautiful woman. Francesca Chilcote, last seen as a solemn widow in Son of a Father, steals the show as Mark, the Charlie Chaplin-inspired custodian, thanks in part to Anastasia Wilson’s exuberant choreography.

Finally, HaileSelassie challenges his own concept with Tiny Coffin. John (HaileSelassie) opens with a monologue that buries the audience in imagery and insight, particularly after being weaned off of words for so long. Then, the rest of the cast are challenged to tell the same story in dance and vindicate the Naked Theatre Project. Up until now, HaileSelassie’s vision has been buoyed by his fantastic actors. There is no weak link. They fearlessly cross genres and genders whenever called upon. In the end, whether they can match a well-written, well-delivered monologue is up to each audience member to decide.

See it if: You want to explore theater, even to its (wait for it) fringe.

Skip it if: You’re too disappointed that the actors are never literally naked.

Image courtesy of Annexus Theatre Company