Stephen Legawiec’s Hammergirl opens with a blank stage, with three
staggered backdrops denoting Nordic fatalistic symbols. The curious
circular painting on the stage floor – nine planets connected
by a tree – is soon turned into a mystical, magical other- worldly
playground for the telling of ancient Scandinavian myths. We will be
told of a world before there were lines to make countries and there
were no nationalities or races, only the "old ones." We will
be told about the great "ancient war of revenge."
Reciter (Kahn Moller) comes to circle’s center to begin the tale
of the Hammergirl, with a background of mandolin music (Bob Applebaum).
Finger-cymbals, exotic drums, dried seed rattles, and angelic voices,
an ensemble gathers in powdered face and fanciful costumes. The ambience
is so enchanting you immediately know that this will not be theater
as usual and it isn’t.
of the kingdom of the great God Odin (Christina Taylor) even greater
than the God Thor, two sisters, both princesses in waiting to be queen,
are called upon to negotiate peace and settle an age-old feud. One sister,
Hlin (Dana Wieluns) is mild in manner and simple in temperament. The
other, Varhild (Nicolette Vajtay) is fierce and wild, a warrior.
of court and Counselor (Tobe Sexton) they must travel to the land of
the Trulls. An hysterically funny duo of one tall cycloptic Trull (Meg
Peck) and a small counterpart (an adorable Candace Reid) serve as an
introduction to the land and ultimately lead to the ferocious Trull
King (Taylor). Further guidance is sought by a towering Prophetess (Reid)
who speaks in an intriguing invented language that is translated by
a little girl with a doll (Vanessa Mercado with Denise Johnson alternating
the role). The quest for an elusive peace continues.
not everyone’s cup of tea, Hammergirl is certainly an innovative
exploration of a cultural road less traveled. The highly creative and
stylized staging (Legawiec) coupled with fanciful costumes (Robert Velasquez
with assistant Megan Hanna) and Beckie Kravetz’s beautifully expressive
and dramatic masks, fabricates a world fitting for the storytelling
of Norse Myths. Though many centuries apart and different in style and
culture , it is somehow reminiscent of Kabuki Theater with its rich
blendings of realism and ceremonial formalism; however, this production
uses mostly women to play all the roles whereas Kabuki uses men."
DePino © Dramalogue, February 26 - March 4, 1998
Hammergirl: Los Angeles Times
in 1996, the fledgling (Ziggurat) Theatre shows an impressively mature
grasp of stagecraft in "Hammergirl" at Glaxa.
from Norse legends, the play is largely the brainchild of (Ziggurat’s)
co-founder Stephen Legawiec, who not only directs this production but
also contributes most of the haunting original music, performed by mandolinist
Bob Applebaum, that punctuates the action.
"Hammergirl" is very much a collaborative effort, workshopped
over the course of several months by (Ziggurat’s) ensemble. The
story chiefly concerns the travails and adventures of two princess sisters
– one fierce, one mild – who must each confront and change
her intrinsic nature to deliver their kingdom from an age-old blood
feud with a race of giants.
to render a thumbnail etiology of Norse myth prove dramatically unwieldy
at times. Despite turgid moments in the narrative, this epic effort
has been luminously realized by Legawiec and a crack design team. Choregrapher
Alisa Hawkins’ dance sequences are Kabuki-like exercises in form,
Robert Velasquez’s costumes range from the austere to the whimsical.
Lief Gantvoort’s lighting creates lambency on a budget, while
Beckie Kravetz’s remarkable masks set the magical tone for the
entire evening. Of the solid cast, Candace Reid is particularly striking
as a prophetess called back from the dead to render a grim pronouncement."
Foley, © Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1998
LA Weekly "Pick of the Week"
the gods’ heavenly dwelling and the murky underworld lies the
most frightening place of all: Midgard, the cold Earth where noble,
if barbaric humans and grotesque trolls struggle for dominance in a
death feud as ancient as Norse mythology. Writer-director Stephen Legawiec’s
stunning journey into Scandinavian fantasy and tradition reveals legend
through simple narration, fanciful mime and mask-work, stylized acting
and dance. When a king dies en route to presenting a peace offering
to the trolls, his two daughters vie for the chance to take his place
as savior of their people. Hlin (Dana Wieluns), a timid soul, easily
succumbs to the cruelty and overweening pride of her older sister, Varhild
(Nicolette Vajtay), who takes on the mantle of queen. Nevertheless they
can only bring about harmony by working together. Disharmony is represented
primarily by three trolls, hilariously played by Christina Taylor, Meg
Peck and Candace Reid – each brilliantly acted with exaggerated
body movements and screeching gibberish, as well as Beckie Kravetz’s
frightening masks. Throughout, Bob Applebaum’s mandolin blends
with ensemble percussion to provide Legawiec’s glorious and moving
- Tom Provenzano,
© LA Weekly, February 27-March 5, 1998