Monday, June 4, 2007


Most of the production in this year's Festival originated in New York City; however, we have one entry that has come to us all the way from that bastion of American pretentiousness, Miami, FL. It is Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, written by Iranian expatriate author Assurbanipal Babilla and directed by the Peter Brook of Dade County, Michael Yawney. On the eve of the company's arrival in New York, it was revealed that they swept the theatre category of the Miami New Times Best Of Miami Awards. The valedictory blurbs are reproduced below. Show these Southerners some Northern hospitality and come out to support their show!

Best Acting Ensemble Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
Assurbinipal Babilla called his play Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, but Merri Jo Pitassi, Odell Rivas, and Miriam Kulick did a lot more than dance on that needle — they got skewered on it. If you were lucky enough to be hanging out in the Deluxe Arts complex this past January, you'd have seen one of the most jaw-dropping displays of dramaturgical virtuosity to hit Florida in ... well, who knowsç Three Angels was a play that brooked no real comparisons. Playing characters of pornographic ugliness, reeking of spiritual decay and utter moral desperation, the three actors urged each other on to operatic heights of shame and degradation before small audiences who, by play's end, didn't know whether to clap, puke, or kill themselves. Maybe Three Angels wasn't the most fun way to spend a Friday night, but these three actors didn't give a shit: They were playing for higher stakes than that. What those stakes might have been, the rest of us are still trying to figure out.

Best Actor Odell Rivas in Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
In Three Angels Rivas's part consisted primarily of a monologue called "God's Greatest Invention," in which his character confessed to being madly in lust — not love, just lust — with a man. The whole performance was one long scream of trembling, jittering need, with lots of big, declamatory statements and huge, sloppy emotions. But out of that tempest came a handful of lines that possessed a weird grace and some kind of defeated composure, summoned from who knows where. One of those lines was this: "You said you don't mind doing it with boys. Well—what in God's name keeps you from doing it with the boy in meç" There are more than six billion people on this earth, and most of them have asked that question in some form: Why not meç When Rivas asked, the bottomless dignity in his face and in his voice told their stories as much as his own. This year no other actor even came close.

Best Actress Miriam Kulick in Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
The third actor to accost the audience in Assurbanipal Babilla's Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, Miriam appeared as the wife of a man who'd killed himself by jumping off a bridge. She hated him a lot, and his death had done little to soften her rage. For an interminable time — truly interminable; she could have held the stage for instants or epochs — she stood there, body and voice trembling, all her communicative faculties short-circuiting at their inability to process the vastness of her anger, tracing the shape of her hatred with horrific blind references to episodes which are never quite illuminated, allowing the audience's imagination to extrapolate at will and guiding that imagination into very weird terrain. Walking fifty-seven blocks to the morgue to identify her husband's remains, she danced all the way — like a whore, she said, just like her husband's mother. When she did the dance onstage, her hips were like war machines, and her face was like nothing you've ever seen before — a writhing tableaux of electric evil so pure that, if you encountered it in life, it would almost certainly be the last thing you ever saw. Even within the relative safety of the theater, audiences felt an actual, physical revulsion. One spectator said, "If she came any closer to my seat, I was going to scream," and that's about right. It's worth mentioning: According to all reports, Miriam Kulick is a very sweet lady when she's not scaring the hell out of you.

Best Theatrical Production Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, directed by Michael Yawney for Square Peg Productions
There was a handful of productions this year that will stick in audience's memories for a long time, but Three Angels is probably the only one that will have those audiences doubting their memories. Scant days after the fact, it already felt like a dream: the kinky Catholic-voodoo-gothic rituals that sandwiched the scenes; the brutal speed of the monologues; the unearthly poetry of the writing; the unholy passion it inspired in the cast; the purely holy passion with which the actors endowed exiled Iranian writer Assurbanipal Babilla's ugliest, most fevered musings not with dignity, but something dirtier and infinitely more pitiable. After the cast received its standing O's, people milled around, wanting to talk about what they'd seen but not sure what to say. Given a dozen or so weeks to think about it, they might have come up with something like this: By showing us three people who've moved beyond desperation into utter, predatory insanity, and by giving their voices a chance to be heard, Square Peg made it apparent that even monsters can be human. The unavoidable subtext was that if monsters are human, the rest of us must be, too.

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