Playwright: adapted by Sean Graney from the novel & play by Alexandre Dumas fils and the libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
At: The Hypocrites at The Storefront
Phone: (312) 742-8497; $15
Runs through: March 27
Hear the sad story of lovers sundered by an unfeeling society: Good-time girl Camille was the hottest babe in Paris, but she fell for Armand, a rich boy whose stuck-up Dad convinced her to dump him for the sake of his family's reputation. (This was in 1848, you see.) Even though poor Camille had a fatal illness, she consented. It got nasty for awhile—Armand killed her new boy friend in a duel. But the fugitive boy and the dying girl were reunited in time to swap vows of Eternal Devotion and bid each other farewell.
Keep those events fixed in your mind during Camille/La Traviata, adapted by Sean Graney from the novel, the play and the opera recounting them. Because the scenery for this Hypocrites production mimics a chamber of the human heart. The action is accompanied by an aural montage comprised of a heart beating beneath music designed to intensify the mood of the moment (which is why it's called MELO-drama, from 'melody-drama'). We also have a soprano at stageside trilling arias from Verdi's opera (with subtitles) set to rock-pop arrangements, a thrilling sword-fight at a costume party, and two choruses—speaking, not singing—of expressionistically-attired bystanders engaging in a variety of kinetic distractions.
With subtext pelting down on us from all sides, there's not much room left for text interpretation. Under most circumstances, the story—you remember the story, don't you?—would risk being engulfed in a flood of Grand Passion. But even when crawling over the floor, keening in unrestrained agony, The Hypocrites never lose their vernacularistic inflections to the stilted dialogue.
Camille/La Traviata delivers more sensory stimulus than modern audiences are accustomed to absorbing in a mere two hours—and young thespians are usually willing to generate (simulated sex is easy, but open-mouthed weeping demands a different sort of courage). But if this daring concept's execution sometimes careens dangerously toward overload, Graney's ensemble deserves the highest commendations for their full-out commitment to his ambitious vision.