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Onboard a plane, taking me to the opening night of my production in Chicago, I tried to recall everything I knew about the third largest city of America. The name of a playwright, David Mamet, was the first thing to come to my mind. Second, an image of John Malkovich, one of the founders of The Steppenwolf Theatre, appeared. Once in Chicago, while staring out the window of the metro, I caught sight of red shiny letters «Steppenwolf». It turned out that it was my closest encounter with the foreseen future.
«The (edward) Hopper Project». Image by John W. Sisson, Jr./ WNEP Theater
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In the booking office – the analogue of New-York’s «TKTS» I got a glimpse of a poster advertising «The (edward) Hopper Project». How is it that Edward Hopper’s paintings, an American Epicrisis genius in the middle of the 20th century, give birth to the theatre? That curiosity was more than enough to go see the performance of WNEP Theatre in downtown in Chicago.

The performance area was deliberately narrow – the WNEP Theatre Company, like most other Chicago theater formations, had rented it especially for this production. The audience was sitting in a long phalanx amongst the indissoluble surroundings, created by Hopper’s objective illustrations. Someone moved on a bed in a room on the third storey. It was lovers waking up, bringing to life their piece of the picture. One by one, the couples of this «house» turn into three-dimensional characters, wrapping the solidity of color with the character’s solidity and then transforming into the background of the game again.

Scenographer, Heath Hays, built the performance around a two-tier static scaffolding: in the bottom corner there is a café, where in the morning occasional passers-by stop for a cup of coffee, in the afternoon – now familiar - they have their bacon and eggs, and in the evening – they flirt with each other. Everything moves fast here; as if by accident «the divergence of minutes rules» there. Pictures like shots change one another. A girl takes a seat at a big window in “Fillis”. A passing by young man spots her and their eyes meet – but, he goes on. The lunch break is over and the upset girl exits leaving her unfinished coffee. But within a minute, with a flower in his hand, he dashes into the restaurant; disappointed, he asks to top up her cup, and the sour scent of Hopper solitude fills the air.

Verbal and silent dialogues were created collectively by the Theatre Company. Using Hopper’s images, they built a web of relationships – about simple and outstanding people, living now or a century ago. Each story creates a puzzle of America in the forties and in the fifties, so remote and so close.

Director Don Hall reconstructs characters of that time meticulously – paying close attention to the smallest detail. The spectators quite insensibly find themselves being drawn into that reality where the coffee aroma is hypnotizing and the bake goods are mouth watering - and the next thing they know is that they are part of this reality.

The performance lies within the framework of a tragicomedy setting the tone for the actors. The three-dimensional stillness of Hopper, where things are questionable, becomes the moment that binds the end of one thing with the start of another. The energy from the tension created by this produces the integrity of the dramaturgy of the performance. It lets us look through the office and apartment windows, peek into the cinema theaters and hotels. Everything is tangible and objective, but at the same time, out of place, igniting one’s curiosity to what is hiding behind the blind, or the stubborn window that opens with difficulty.

Mary Jo Bolduc and Erin Orr in WNEP Theater’s «The (edward) Hopper Project.» Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr./ WNEP Theater

Day fades into evening. Couples are walking in front of a two-storey house. One of the couples sits down at a little table on the sidewalk and starts what seems to be an insignificant conversation; when in fact, it is about the meaning of life and the door that opens when one is born. Death evokes a mystery among certain characters that can be solved only outside the picture of the performance – where the light of Hopper’s canvases is coming to life.

This midnight reality is more than meets the eye. The interpretation of one of Hopper’s most famous works, «Nighthawks», where behind a window which barely separates the people from the deserted street: a couple frozen in time - a lonely man and a bartender, transforms into a magical space. It ignites a multitude of thoughts; an overheard comment creates new meanings, clarifying the principle, according to which contingency is the mechanism of irreversibility. This intangibility and the logic of sad movement, started long before the performance and finished long after its end, is created by «The (edward) Hopper Project».

Behind the corner of the Theatre stands The Art Institute of Chicago where presented together with Hopper’s «Nighthawks» there is Grant Wood’s painting «American Gothic». While Hopper’s painting has become the setting for pieces of life in the theatre, Wood’s has become a sculpture which is located on Michigan Avenue. By different means, theatre and grace, the artists of the Mid-West transform two-dimensional works into three-dimensional masterpieces. On my journey home, I realized that for me, Chicago had turned out to be the place where I saw the American art in its purest form.

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Четверг, 20 Сентября 2018
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