GEEK GAL OUT! Caroline Cao Reviews ÉLÉPHANT: Dark and Enchanting!

By   |   July 30, 2018   |   Entertainment

Penned by playwright Eva MeiLing Pollit with phantasmagorical flair, Éléphant – now playing at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center –  is harrowing like a dark nursery rhyme where a false sense of comfort cannot conceal darker implications. A Planet Connections Festivity production, Éléphant covers the plight of prostitutes through the wide-eyes of a girl who hasn’t accepted she is growing up too fast.

It is the late 1800s in France and 13-year-old Clérése learns the hard way that fantasies, while they offer a self-medication of sorts, can expire. From dreams of honey streams, a momentary lover who impregnates and deserts her and misogynists exploiting her vulnerabilities, Clérése must circumnavigate the liminal world between childhood and womanhood as she remains cloistered in the Parisian brothel where her mother works. While Pollit does not shirk from the grit, her text also demonstrates a faith in the preservationist potential of both Clérése and her overworked mother.

With a minimalist set comprising of plain furniture or sheets, costume designer Allison Crutchfield emanates a sense of time with striking and gentle color palettes, such as the stain of blood when Clérése discovers her period. Co-directors Akia Squitieri and Anna Hogan utilize the sprawling spaces beyond the seating to mine resourceful techniques to forge tension and a sense of an outside world. The directors’ method of spatially insinuates Clérése’s imprisonment in her insular box that she doesn’t know is a nightmare.

Raiane Cantisano and Ita Korenzecher portray the daughter Clérése and the mother respectively and have a rapport. A special note for Laura Lamberti who contributes a solid business-as-usual austerity as the Madame of the brothel.

Catch it and prepare to cry. Final Performances are this Tuesday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 3 at 9:30 p.m.


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