I wrote in this column two weeks ago that a thing called “The House of Fitzcarraldo,” from the 2010 Kansas City Fringe Festival, would be playing last weekend at two venues. Even after talking to the producer for an hour or two before writing my column, I still had no idea what to make of it. Now, having seen it at the Las Vegas Little Theatre Studio, I’m still not sure.
The script — written and executed by the Buran Theatre Company, with a few local actors thrown in — is a hip burlesque account of a true incident: Werner Herzog is trying to direct a film in which a man tries to get a huge steamship over a mountain to bring opera to Peru. Those who are fans of the 1982 movie “Fitzcarraldo” undoubtedly remember the neurotic bigness of the epic. In addition, poor Herzog has to deal with the ego and mood swings of his star, the infamous but brilliant Klaus Kinski (remember him?).
The one-hour sketch, about the craziness of obsession, had an improvisational feel. What I especially enjoyed, in addition to the superb performances, was that it demonstrated how unconventional a play can be. The set was a white canvas, helped along with projections and shadows and punctuated by a cutout of a steamship that seemed to be climbing up a ladder (I suspect Herzog would have hated that kind of simplicity). After many absurd and funny outbursts, the ladder falls, the ship is destroyed, and the characters react by smearing their heads with peanut butter sandwiches. How can you not love it?
The local production was produced by Vegas director Ruth Pe Palileo, who happened to catch the show in Kansas City. It reminded me that there are still-to-be-discovered ways for theater to tell a story.
Although I usually prefer the excitement of a “live” performance, London’s National Theatre is gaining a reputation for broadcasting globally some terrific productions. On Feb. 9, several local theaters will play host to a new play by Nicholas Wright called “Traveling Light,” which has been described as “a funny and fascinating tribute to the birth of cinema.” Upcoming is “Comedy of Errors” March 1 and “She Stoops to Conquer” March 29. The organization has an entire season planned.
For more information, visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/. …
After reading Mike Weatherford’s Jan. 19 column in the Review-Journal, I don’t see how anyone can say that the local theater scene isn’t getting better. Not only is The Smith Center opening around the corner, but the Plaza — already home to Insurgo Theater — will soon be playing host to an open run of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Then there’s all that talk of maybe “Rock of Ages” or “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” or “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” coming to Vegas.
Anyone remember when Broadway was a dirty word in this town?
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@ aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.