Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: Blinded By the Light

By Michael Block

A troupe of strolling of players take over the 14th Street Y to share a history you likely had no clue about. Ed Malin's The Troubadour Struck By Lightning explored the gay history of the 13th through 15th centuries. With modern sensibility and an innate sense of theatricality, The Troubadour Struck By Lightning featured many ideas in one. The Troubadour Struck By Lightning is a difficult text. It has to do the job of entertaining while informing all while keeping clarity in the forefront. Jumping around from time and place, Malin's play follows the many lives of the homosexual persuasion in a time where any inkling of the lifestyle was forbidden. From a musician who takes up with royalty to the sausage party deep within some hallowed halls, Malin finds the humor inside. The bawdy comedy had room to go raunchier. In fact, it was greatly desired. Sex sells! The modern references Malin sprinkler into his text were quite wonderful. Nothing beats the "Blinded By the Light" moment. It's just one of the many moments that showcased Malin's intellect.
The biggest obstacle Ed Malin, director Janet Bentley and The Troubadour Struck By Lightning team faced was the space. They were dealt an unavoidable disadvantage. This is a play that was intimate and the vastness of the 14th Street Y was detrimental. With a literal bar between actor and audience, the fourth wall-breaking element was lost. From a design standpoint, there were many discrepancies, mostly through costume. By not having two players in period-inspired garb, the costume design lost a bit of credibility. The starting image needed to have the entirety of the company in or out of player costume. What worked wonders for this production was the integration of live music. He helped to create the world and keep the piece lively.
The ensemble did their best to combat the woes of the stage by becoming a tight ensemble. Though there were some strong individual performances, The Troubadour Struck By Lightning was truly a team effort.
There is incredible richness in Ed Malin's text. The festival setting sadly got the best of them. No matter what, this is an important history that deserves theatrical attention.