Breathing life into an old Italian legend, Bulgarian painter, stage designer and puppeteer Encho Avramov exhausts every seemingly imaginable use from a simple prop. Reams of paper, scrolling down from the ceiling as set decoration, become hair, guns, skirts, breasts and gigantic pants in The King Stag, directed by visiting Bulgarian professor and theater director Petar Pashov.
The play was originally written by Carlo Gozzi, who twisted the original street performance to accommodate a theater hall. Pashov and Avramov, known for instructing local theater greats like Thaddeus Phillips, tweaked the text further in order to meet their own needs, particularly the notably international cast, which includes performers from Bulgaria, Peru, Japan and Italy.
Told in the comedia del arte, a traditional Italian method favored by street perfomers in the 18th century, broad movements and even broader comedy is used to convey this cautionary tale. It's the story of lonely King Seren's quest for love. The king finds a bride in Angela, and the jealous Tartaglia, played as a demented Snidely Whiplash by assistant director Ben Solomon, plans his revenge while gypsy dancers engage in paper-bag debauchery,
Tartaglia invokes a magical charm to transport the king's soul, first into that of a stag and later into an old man. Meanwhile, Tartaglia has taken over the king's body in order to score with his new queen. Will the queen realize who her true love really is?
Sure, it's the same old hackneyed story: King looks for wife; king finds wife; king turns into a big deer. In order to refresh the aging version, various touch-ups have been applied.
Cue Pashov's creative meddling. Instead of transferring the king's spirit to an old man, as in Gozzi's original, here it inhabits Japanese actor Ryo Nagae. The dilemma is now one of race rather than age.
"I think it's very useful for the original theme," said Pashov.
"It's a very original decision on what he brought here," agreed Avramov. "The soul is important. It's not the body that matters."
-- Kara Luger
The King Stag
Armstrong Hall, northeast corner of Cascade and Cache La Poudre
Thursday through Saturday, May 12-14, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $5, available at the Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade, or call 389-6607.