…If Friday’s experience wasn’t particularly fulfilling, however, Saturday was like a different festival. The great performances began in the afternoon program, on the theatrical and absurd, with the premiere of a fabulous new production: Samuel Beckett’s mime play Act Without Words I, scored for solo clarinet by Montreal-based composer Luna Pearl Woolf and directed by West Edge Opera’s Mark Streshinsky.
In Beckett’s work, a man finds himself stranded in the desert, flung backward by invisible forces each time he tries to leave. Streshinsky’s starkly minimal setting swaps the desert for a metal frame swathed in several layers of plastic wrap: a prison invisible to the man (Michael Mohammed), and one that allows the audience to see into the action. Outside, the Technician (Kate McKinney) perches on a ladder, ready with a fishing rod to dangle various objects into the space, and clarinetist Renata Rakova stands below.
An outburst rouses the sleeping man. Subsequently, and throughout the play, Rakova points her instrument toward the objects being introduced — scissors, rope, and, most tantalizingly, a water bottle — as if to help the man notice them (though the objects ultimately provide only frustration). In fact, Woolf’s illustrative music here, as does her 2013 silent film score Suspense, skillfully augments the performers’ movements. Short motivic bursts illustrate the sudden actions of the man falling off a box and throwing himself against a wall, for example — but when he cradles the length of rope, contemplating the sweetness of death, Woolf trades terse gestures for long, legato tones.
Read at San Francisco Classical Voice
Order Act Without Words I here.
Order Suspense here.