Credit: Liz Lauren

Catalonian director Calixto Bieito made his name as a provocateur in opera, where audiences are grateful for provocation because it helps them stay awake. His 2004 staging of Mozart’s The Abduction From the Seraglio famously involved urination, mutilation, and a cast that reportedly included authentic prostitutes. Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls saw that show, and you’ve got to wonder whether it was a coincidence that two years later he gave us a King Lear chock full o’ people getting drunk and humping one another. But Falls didn’t stop with homage. He invited Bieito to direct at Goodman, and this year Bieito’s free adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s 1953 Camino Real hit the stage and slapped around Chicago audiences. Never mind that the production came across as a parade of vulgar, neon-lit cartoons, or that Bieito made Williams himself a character, portraying the playwright as a hallucinating street drunk. What got me was the way he seemed methodically to degrade his actors. As far as I could tell, Bieito wasn’t asking his cast, What can we create together? His question was, What can I make you do?