‘Hidden or Niche’ Productions Shine at Venice Theater Biennale

Visioli directed a production of his own for the occasion: “Ultima Latet,” a Latin phrase meaning “the last is hiding.” In it, a cynical ...

Visioli directed a production of his own for the occasion: “Ultima Latet,” a Latin phrase meaning “the last is hiding.” In it, a cynical visitor ends up by mistake — or so it seems — at the home of a reclusive, religious woman who cares obsessively for a single plant.

Ingeniously, the plant is actually composed of cables, and acts as a musical installation and a third character. The actors don gloves to touch it, and early on, whenever they lift one of its stems, an electronic heartbeat fills the auditorium. Slowly, it draws the women in until the visitor starts twisting and bending the stems, manipulating the music like a D.J. and sending them both into a trance.

While “Ultima Latet” is a brilliant example of sound-based dramaturgy, the winner of the Silver Lion, Alessio Maria Romano, a choreographer and movement director, didn’t quite achieve the same synergy. Perhaps the pitch-perfect introduction of “Bye Bye,” his stage offering, set overly high expectations. A singer welcomed the audience into the auditorium with the song “Bye Bye Blackbird,” crooned into an old-fashioned microphone and interspersed with absurd words of welcome.

Unfortunately, the tight direction of that scene was missing from what followed, a spare contemporary dance work for five dancers in which movement was progressively deconstructed, until little of interest remained.

While most artists didn’t address the pandemic directly, the Theater Biennale opened with a requiem of sorts in the form of a staged reading by the formidable poet Mariangela Gualtieri, “Opening Voice (A Sound Ritual).” Under the direction of her longtime artistic partner Cesare Ronconi, the barefoot Gualtieri whispered to “all the dead of this time” in her wise, pensive opening ode, and included a poem she wrote during lockdown, “March the Ninth Two Thousand and Twenty,” which went viral at the time in Italy.

Under Latella, the Theater Biennale has also offered training opportunities to young Italian theater-makers through a program known as the Biennale College. There are prizes to be won there, too, and both Martina Badiluzzi (the 2019-20 winner in the “Directors Under 30” category) and Caroline Baglioni (the top “Author Under 40” between 2018 and 2020) were offered the opportunity to direct a new production this year.

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Newsrust: ‘Hidden or Niche’ Productions Shine at Venice Theater Biennale
‘Hidden or Niche’ Productions Shine at Venice Theater Biennale
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