Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Exhibitionism

OCTOBER 20, 1997: 

Tlamatcanemilitzli Trilogy: Brutal Search for Peace


John Henry Faulk Theatre,
through October 18
Running Time: 2 hrs

In the village, the mothers are crying. Their sons are about to be sent into another battle, to fight for another faceless cause. The drums of war are sounding, and the battle won't be long in coming. But all of the bloodshed can be averted if a young boy can fight the nine spirits and return with the flame of peace.

In another village, a woman in white buckskin descends from the sky and destroys a boy who would try to possess her. She tells the elders to build a consecrated dwelling and shows the people the way to peace. In her place, she leaves a white buffalo calf.

In the final village, soldiers ransack the homes of the indigenous people, destroying families and ending lives. The soldiers were sent by the government to quell a rebel uprising. The government sends tanks and helicopters against roosters and rocks. Peace will be a long time coming.

Rodney Garza, with musical accompaniment by Mario Garza, tells these three tales in his Tlamatcanemilitzli Trilogy, produced by Teatro Humanidad Cansada. Garza's script consists of the stories of these villages, two from the past, Azteca and Lakota, and one from the bloody present, Chiapas, and their often brutal search for Tlamatcanemilitzli, the Aztec word for peace.

When Garza roots himself in the ritual story-telling of the past, his work is magical. The scent of incense hangs thickly in the air, calling to mind brown earth and dry heat. He uses his strong voice and agile body to transport the audience from the sterile theatre into his tales. His passion and performance is magnetic.

But the present is problematic for Garza. While the video clips from Chiapas, completely in Spanish and without subtitles, are emotional and moving, his monologue "Operation Peace on Earth" feels more like a political rallying cry than a coherent piece of theatre. There is a coherent storyline within the monologue that deals with a young rebel and his need to fight, but somewhere it loses the thoughtful and subtly emotional qualities that make the first act such a moving success. Somewhere, some border is crossed and the production becomes less about the story and more about action, which seems to undo all of the messages about Tlamatcanemilitzli that Garza has woven into the previous passages.

It does make you think, however, and probably will make you angry, either at the situation in Chiapas or at Garza himself for lulling you with gentle stories, then beating you with a rallying cry. -- Adrienne Martini


Italian American Reconciliation: Moments from Exploding


Hyde Park Theatre,
through November 1
Running time: 2 hrs

Much to my grandmother's chagrin, I never dated Italian boys, even though my high school was full of them. I just couldn't take all of the pent-up passion, a type of smoldering intensity that seemed to lurk just behind their dark eyes where it could erupt with the strangest provocation. It was the same with my father and all my uncles -- fiery, poetic, and just barely restrained, the whole lot of them.

But the grand drama lives on in Subterranean Theatre Company's Italian American Reconciliation. Moonstruck screenwriter John Patrick Shanley revisits that now familiar territory of an Italian love affair gone haywire, with equally histrionic results. In this foray into Little Italy, Huey Bonfigliano decides he needs to reconcile with his ex-wife Janice, a woman of high passion who killed Huey's dog to get her spouse's attention. Aldo Scalicki, Huey's best friend and Shanley's humble narrator, gets dragged into the machinations, and lessons about people and relationships are learned by all.

The mighty Joe York plays Huey and turns in a genuine, heartfelt performance as a man trapped by his emotions. York's deft touch is matched by Ken Webster, who brings both warm and scuzzy nuances to the big-mouthed character of Aldo. Katherine Catmull plays the angry Janice strongly, while Lana Dieterich brings a roundedness to the sage-like Aunt May. As Teresa, Huey's jilted girlfriend, Monika Bustamante seems like she is about to burst, though whether from nerve-wracking desire for her lost man or opening weekend jitters was hard to tell.

In fact, the whole production feels as if it is moments from exploding into a glorious feast of high drama and fierce comedy. Most of the pieces are ready to ignite, but there is some essential spark that is missing. Perhaps this hidden element is a stronger ring of authenticity that could have been gained from time spent with a real Italian family or a trip to Little Italy, more realistic experience than can be gleaned from repeated viewings of The Godfather or Wise Guys. Or, perhaps, the elusive spark is a full commitment to these heightened, wonderful characters that allows you to really get lost in the passion of their lives and loves, to fling yourself into the opera while retaining the skills to sing a glorious aria before you die of consumption. -- Adrienne Martini


William Pellicone: Pears & Circuses


Gallery Lombardi,
through October 25

Where did this place come from? Or, more appropriately, where have I been? This roomy, comfortable, well-lit gallery tucked behind the Electric Lounge has been exhibiting local artists for more than a year, but I've failed to discover it until now. Not only that, but William Pellicone, an 83-year-old artist living in Dripping Springs, has produced artwork and shown around the country since at least the early Sixties, and I've only now happened upon him. Jeez, just when you think you have your finger on the pulse of the local arts scene....

But better late than never, and fortunately this retrospective provides a good glimpse at Pellicone's work over the past 30 years. His style at the beginning of this phase was somewhat morose. The abstracted depiction of an ominous and forbidding collection of trees in Landscape is an eerie portrayal in dark hues, similar to the chilling stillness in Red Sun.

This darkness lifts, however, especially when he begins exploring pears. Pellicone appears to have an affinity for the bulbous fruit, which is the model for almost half these works. The pear images aren't typical still-life-in-a-fruit-bowl, mind you. These pears are animated, cartoony, and full of characterizations. They're like pear-shaped aliens, weird little foreign creatures with colors that are sometimes brilliant, sometimes subdued. Little rainbow-colored pear bodies mingle together in one work, pouty brownish pears sulk in the corner in another.

Another obvious inspiration for Pellicone is the circus, to which he belonged at some point. The endless images and colors of the circus are evident in these realistic, detailed paintings. Circus Family is a panorama of humans and animals in the midst of a frenetic circus existence. In the foreground, two female performers take a break inside a building. As one sleeps, head cocked on the couch, another sits beside her, topless and mending a gown. Remnants of the day lay on the table before them: a teapot and teacup, sewing tools, face paint, cold cream (with Pellicone's signature serving as the label), a cast-aside tiara. As the women relax, the circus carries on outside the windows. Women in barely-there costumes and massive, feathered crowns stroll into the tent on prancing white horses, performers balance precariously on a galloping horse beneath the center stage spotlight. Elephants await their turn, workmen prepare props, and the town's hilly terrain sits in the background. One can ex-plore the work for several minutes and discover many different worlds churning away in a certain synchronicity. There is one detail that almost escapes the eye. The exhausted-looking man entering the room is Pellicone himself, and the women are his ex-wives, one of whom was his current wife when he painted the piece. It's easy to imagine that these works are a tangle of hidden metaphors, messages between the lines in the visual story of this artist's long life.-- Cari Marshall


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