The Living Theatre, one of New York City's seminal avant-garde troupes of the 1960's, returns to the U.S. with Resistance. The play will run Feb. 28-March 11 at Chashama space at 111 W. 42nd Street. The company currently has its headquarters at Centro Living Europa in Rocchetta Ligure, Italy. Resistance, one year in development, is the first piece the theatre has produced there.
Resistance, directed by the company's co-founder Judith Malina, concerns the war-time history of Rocchetta Ligure, a small mountain hamlet outside Genoa. From 1943 to 1945, villagers steadfastly fought the command of occupying Nazi troops and their Italian Fascist sympathizers by helping fugitives escape, capturing enemy soldiers and running a hospital which helped wounded men on both sides of the conflict. They also physically fought the German army in their valley home.
Malina and company researched the piece by talking to actual veterans of the above exploits. The resulted piece will bear the hallmarks of The Living Theatre's style: a politically activist stance and brave, confrontational staging that often involves the audience. According to a press release, as a stage battle progresses, the play "takes the form of a series of ritual enactments which shape the actors' bodies into shifting flash-emblems of the struggle and which transforms their voices into a supra-natural choir." According to a spokesman for the show, actors will switch between various roles during the drama, which lasts one hour. The only props are rocks (Rocchetta Ligure means "rocky region") and the costume design is black and red. Also, audience members are recruited into the action to fight with the resistance (no one will be force to be a Nazi).
The cast includes Malina, as a chestnut vendor, and Johnson Anthony, Joanie Fritz-Zosike, Jerry Goralnick, Robert Hieger, Marlene Lortev, Lois Kagan Mingus, Craig Peritz, Rob Schmidt and Tom Walker.
Malina founded The Living Theatre with Julian Beck in 1948. Throughout its history, the couple's work preached a pacifist message through a fairly anarchist theatrical style. The group hit its stride in the 1960's, due to highly influential and popular shows such as Jack Gelber's drug addiction drama, The Connection, which featured a jazz band on stage and a film crew in the auditorium, and Kenneth Brown's The Brig, a brutal picture of life in a Marines brig in Japan. The last performance of the latter play was famously played in a locked theatre—the IRS had seized the troupe's theatre for non-payment of taxes, forcing the audience to enter by way of the windows. Since then, the company has hopscotched back and forth between New York, Europe and, for a time, Brazil. Beck died in 1984.
For more information, call (212) 865-3957.
— By Robert Simonson