La Didone – The Wooster Group


Maybe it was just where I was sitting, I finally had a clear view of the source video, that is part of every Wooster group show, as it was playing in the tech booth, or maybe it’s just that I’m not a big fan of opera, but I felt extremely detached from this production. It felt like the whole thing was going on autopilot and it made no difference to the people on stage whether there was an audience there or not.

I felt the opera half of the cast connected with the audience slightly more, but they, and the story they were telling were constantly fighting the set, costumes, and the myriad of set gadgetry, which, because of their typical Wooster high tech, really seemed to all support the sci-fi half of the story. Nothing about these elements seemed there to support La Didone, which after all the whole production is named after.

After a while I found myself drawn to following the sci-fi story, which was more immediately accessible to me, it was in English and the set seemed to be made for it, while the opera part of the production was wandering around lost, running on it’s own track in the background, and distracting me (from finding out how the sci-fi story would end!).

Sure the Wooster group took great pains to intertwine the action of 1960’s sci-fi film Terrore nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires) with the baroque 17th-Century opera La Didone. They tried very hard to switch it up, to alternate focus between the two stories, and to intertwine them, and they managed to make something, in true Wooster fashion, very complex.

But, once you figured out the key, once you unpacked it, once you started to see glimpses of how the different elements on stage, including crew and orchestra, worked together, was it still complex or just very complicated?

Usually, the Wooster group formula of taking, two or more, seemingly disparate elements and stirring them together, creates something new. This time, though, I think the ingredients didn’t synergize, nothing happened, and nothing new emerged from this experiment.

MAR 17 – APR 26
38 Water Street
DUMBO Brooklyn
p.s. if you’ve never seen the wooster group at all, you should really check them out. They do some amazing things that will leave you bewildered, and should be experienced by anyone who is a theater and performance fan, just so you can see the possibilities. I think they fit the definition of experimental quite well.

p.p.s. the image is from this papermag writeup