The Bats are out in full force in this opera about a young man who has been incarcerated, actually stolen away from his mother at birth with another dead infant substituted so that her evil step sister Louisa’s son (born at the same time) can be the sole heir of the Royal family of Nuremburg. The young man, whose jailor has grown tired of caring for him for fourteen years releases him to the outside world where he is taken in by a Professor and his mother until he grows tired of caring for Kaspar Hauser. That’s the set up.
Back to the Bats. They are the extremely talented, diverse, young resident acting troupe of the Flea Theater where they perform the many characters in this intense and riveting ensemble piece put together by Elizabeth Swados, Erin Courtney and company.
The libretto (Swados and Courtney) is not as clear as it could be – and somewhat difficult to hear at times. There is a lot going on. The repetitive music motifs by Swados are at times exciting but finding a melody that one can latch onto is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Although there are some truly beautiful moments, they are fleeting. The direction (again Swados) is excellent. She conjures up some amazing stage images – in the manner of Hogarth against the wood and burlap all purpose set by John McDermott. Costumes (Normandy Sherwood) are quite nice; Lighting (Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew) inspired. Mimi Quillin as movement director does wonders with the cast in the intimate space.
Poor Kaspar Hauser. Like a limp, pigeon-toed, drooling puppet, this wild child is tossed out into the cold cruel world and has to learn everything about life (the good and the bad) while all the time searching for his mother. At first no one wants him. Then he becomes a sort of Nuremburg Idol. And once the fickle public has elevated him to idol status they want nothing more than to destroy him. Based on rumor and gossip. Sort of what we like to do with our modern day celebrities. As Kaspar Hauser, Preston Martin turns in a sensitive, touching and totally enthralling performance.
Eventually, the shrill evil step sister gets the manipulative Lord Stanhope to place him with a religiously fanatical couple in another town where Kaspar is once again incarcerated and then thrown out. Returning to his original keepers and still trying to find his mother, he is told that there is a note from her and to go to the park late at night to retrieve it. Guess what happens? Was he murdered or was it suicide the public wonders? It will forever remain a mystery – one more story left untold. Or in the case of Swados and company told here in a very satirical, theatrical, Brechtian, striking ensemble piece de resistance.
www.theflea.org Tickets $25.00
This World Premiere features 19 terrific members of The Bats: Adrienne Deekman, Jennifer Fouché, Beth Griffith, Nicolas Greco, Joseph Dale Harris, Arlo Hill, Michael Hopewell, Amy Jackson, Erica Livingston, Chad Lindsey, Vella Lovell, Preston Martin, Kelly McCormack, Colin Mew, Jason Najjoum, Eliza Poehlman, Hannah Shankman, Marshall York and Carly Zien.