Joan of Arc: history or apocrypha, saint or schizophrenic, myth or martyr? We’re all mad here, suggests Trap Door Theatre’s vivacious U.S. premiere production of Matei Vişniec’s Joan and the Fire (2007), translated by Jeremy Lawrence and directed by Nicole Wiesner. Down a narrow alleyway, through a restaurant, beyond an unimposing doorway, lies a world of fantasy, where everyone is larger (and louder) than life—starting from the folks who take your ticket and staff the bar. Music and movement begin the experience, in an atmosphere humble in material but extravagant in action.
“We are all at once, and at the same time, actors and clowns, jugglers and singers, storytellers and mimes, puppeteers and dancers,” proclaims Madame Storyteller (Carolyn Benjamin, who also plays keys), as she introduces the dramatis personae from aristocrats to unicorns.
Joan and the Fire
Through 4/15: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, 773- 384-0494, trapdoortheatre.com, $25 (two for one on Thu)
Joan is played by three actors: a resolute Cat Evans, who looks every bit as if they have seen visions beyond mortal ken; Emily Nichelson, who memorably combines grace and steel in her silent portrayal of Joan in battle; and Juliet Kang Huneke, whose youthful presence reminds us that Joan was said to be an illiterate peasant girl. Together they animate Joan like an icon, joining bodies and voices in sculptural and sonic portrayal of the legend.
The ensemble is universally game in their rendition of Vişniec’s verbose script, which traces and erases stories told about Joan and a France presumed on the verge of vanishing after 100 years of war, while romping through courts and corpse-filled battlefields, including the most private of scenes between clown and king. Manuela Rentea plays a host of minor characters with searing commitment. Tia Pinson is an excellent Dauphin, conniving and vain as only the entitled and insecure can be. All the cast can sing.