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Troupe tries on Chekhov's masks

February 04, 2012|By Lynne Heffley

The everyday and ordinary don’t apply in the world of Theatre Movement Bazaar.

One of L.A.’s most unusual performance companies, TMB has been wowing audiences here with haunting, humorous and often startling mash-ups of theater and dance, dialogue, music and multimedia since it moved here from New York in 1999.

The company’s newest work, “The Treatment,” based by TMB founders Tina Kronis and Richard Alger on Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Ward 6,” will be presented in collaboration with Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, where the world premiere piece opens on Feb. 25.

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Directed and choreographed by Kronis, with text by Alger, “The Treatment” explores the line between sanity and insanity, when a doctor in charge of a derelict mental hospital disrupts the societal status quo by engaging in philosophical conversations with an inmate.

“Ward 6,” with its bleak and brutal aspects and great chunks of dialogue and introspection, may sound like a daunting prospect for conversion into movement-based storytelling, but “in the simplest terms, it’s just the way we look at things,” Alger said. “And ‘Ward 6’ struck us as being a fascinating look at how we all have masks that we wear, and theater is always using that device, so it became this interesting correlation between the art form and this kind of societal journey that we all take.”

“Part of our process has always been to leave space for the physicality to come through,” Kronis said. “There’s a music score, a text score and a movement score that interweave and play and support each other. It’s a game of chance as to which one is going to come to the surface in a certain scene or at a certain moment in the play. It also reframes the work, refracts it into different pieces.

“The way I see the piece is that it’s all danced,” she said, even the text and the interaction between the actors. “I see it all as part of the dance of the characters, of the story and of our humanity interplaying up on the stage.”

The six actors who will play the demanding multiple roles are Mark Doerr, Jake Eberle, Nich Kauffman, Matt Shea, Jacob Sidney and Mark Skeens. The design team includes Ovation Award-winning Chris Kuhl (lighting), John Zalewski (sound), Jeff Webster (sets) and Ellen McCartney (costumes).

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