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Reviews
Salamanticus

Los Angeles Times Review, May 21, 2004
LA Weekly Review, May 26, 2004
Back Stage West Review, May 20, 2004
flavorpill LA Review, May, 2004
Park La Brea News / Beverly Press Review, June 10, 2004

Los Angeles Times
May 21, 2004
Reviewed by F. Kathleen Foley, Special to The Times

Imagination weaves new Ziggurat myth
'Salamanticus,' sprung from the mind of the ensemble's founder, uses a classic film device in an intricate fairy tale.

Writer-director Stephen Legawiec uses a classic film device — the elusive object of a quest, à la the Maltese Falcon — to launch the charming original fairy tale "Salamanticus" at the Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica.

In this case, the device is the Salamanticus, a mystical Book of Destiny that contains an overview of all knowledge. It's pretext enough for a rousing adventure with a Zen-like edge and considerable philosophical punch.

Founder of the Ziggurat Ensemble, L.A.'s acclaimed myth-based theater company, Legawiec knows his way around a good yarn, as seen in his Chinese martial arts fable "Red Thread" and the Egyptian flavored "Cult of Isis," measured and austere Ziggurat productions derived from ancient myth. In "Salamanticus," however, Legawiec gives his imagination free rein, to whimsical effect.

This is not your typical child's bedtime story. The narrator of the piece is Fibonacci (Luis Zambrano), a famed medieval mathematician notable for his remarkable Fibonacci sequence, an apparently infinite sequence in which each successive number is the sum of the preceding two. And indeed, mystical interconnections are a recurring theme throughout.

Fibonacci weaves the tale of the embattled Kingdom of Nor, whose reclusive King (Michael Klock) has unwittingly ceded power to an evil advisor (delightfully over-the top AnnaLisa Erickson). Fulfilling a promise to a mysterious dying man, three adventurers — a sweet-natured Vagrant (Jenny Woo), a foolish Hoop Seller (Lorin Eric Salm) and a sexy Kai Dancer (Dana Wieluns) — brave various dangers in search of the book, which holds the key to the kingdom's salvation.

Legawiec, who also did the sets and sound, deserves high praise for his wonderfully fanciful costume design, as does long-time Ziggurat collaborator Leif Gantvoort for the lighting.

Tim Storms did the intricate martial arts choreography. Wieluns' dance choreography includes her steamy tango with a Sendak-esque "Sinister Creature," a comic highlight in this richly comical fantasy. As always, Legawiec, our helmsman into the extraordinary, charts a course as fascinating as it is unexpected.

LA Weekly
May 26, 2004
Reviewed by Anne Kelly-Saxenmeyer

That which fascinates and satisfies us in myths and fairy tales — the mysterious “webbing of coincidence” that drags characters toward their destinies — is explored with humor, insight and elegant visual spectacle in writer-director Stephen Legawiec’s delightful new work. Sure to pique the imaginations of both adults and older children, the play follows a vagrant, a hoop seller and a kai dancer whose fates are intertwined by the search for the Salamanticus — a mystical book that promises to cure the ailing kingdom of a mourning philosopher king. The gifted ensemble of actors and dancer-acrobats brings the tale to life with fanfare, physical comedy and captivating characters like narrator Fibonacci (Luis Zambrano), a mathematician/clown who invites us into the finer points of Legawiec’s vision. Design highlights include gorgeous costumes by Legawiec, Margaret McCarley and Robert Velasquez (including a winged empress the size of a small aircraft), and a whimsical, functional sea vessel from set designer Legawiec. Choreographers Tim Storms (martial arts) and Dana Wieluns (dance) contribute nicely — the kai dancer’s tango with inhuman, hog-faced captors is priceless.

Back Stage West
May 20, 2004
Reviewed by Madeleine Shaner

Combining myth and mathematics may sound like an unholy mix to those who were scared straight by the multiplication tables at an early age. Stephen Legawiec's new play, which leans heavily on both math and myth, without ever demanding that you understand either, explains it all for you. Although Legawiec, an acknowledged theatre anthropologist, has done his usual due diligence regarding the origins of the myths and legends that form the basis of his play, he admits that there's more invention and imagination here than actual mythology. Based vaguely on the Fibonacci sequence—a series of numbers first created by the eponymous, virtually unrecognized, 12th century mathematical genius—the play is about destiny, fate, or what is destined to happen because of a combination of what has gone before. Fibonacci's sequence has perplexed mathematicians for centuries, but actor Luis Zambrano as the charismatic Fibonacci—when he isn't being the paper seller who wrote the mystical Salamanticus—cheerfully narrates the tale of a Vagrant's search, and the coincidence surrounding it, for the magical book that will put the world back on its moral axis.

The Vagrant (an amazing Jenny Woo) falls in with The Hoop Seller (Lorin Eric Salm), a sweetly dubious search assistant, and with The Kai Dancer (saucy Dana Wieluns), a slyly manipulative con artist, both of whom are in search of something they don't have, whatever it might be. Foiled at most turns by the gloriously nasty Amah (AnnaLisa Erickson), who prefers to be addressed by her Lieutenant (Chris Smith) as Queen-To-Be, which she will be after she poisons her husband, the King (Michael Klock), the three journey to distant lands and undiscovered territories, where they are assailed by eccentric alchemists, giant pig-like insects, a mystical Empress (Linda Borini), an evil Astrologer (Loren J. Rubin), and all brands of villainy directed at their quest.

All is accomplished by writer/director Legawiec's particular brand of theatrical magic, which includes stirring dance (choreography by Wieluns), acrobatics, martial arts (choreography by Tim Storms), stunning costuming (Legawiec) in spectacular fabrics we've never seen before, and a splendid ensemble (Borini, Andrea Chapdelaine, Gibson, and Elena Goss), portraying guards, handmaidens, boatmen, monster insects, and animated statues. Besides the spectacle, magic, and mystery, there's a superb, suitably mathematical precision of performance that makes every movement count, salted with a lovely humor that's not always been so apparent in Legawiec's previous plays. This is splendid theatre—unique and surprisingly involving.

flavorpill LA
May, 2004
Reviewed by LB

Kings, queens, dancers, buffoons, butterflies, and boars are just some of the characters that populate the land of Nor, a fairy-tale kingdom richly dressed with costumes and set pieces that surprise. Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble's presentational style draws you in as narrator Fibonacci (delightfully portrayed by Luis Zambrano) and his famous sequence (employed much more interestingly here than in The Da Vinci Code) reveal the interconnectedness of all things. This philosophical inquiry transforms into a story about the importance of community and fellowship as the journey of three travelers linked together by circumstance teaches us that everyone is important, even the scoundrels. (LB)

Park La Brea News / Beverly Press
June 10, 2004
Reviewed by Dave DePino

A Mystical World Comes to Vibrant Life in "Salamanticus"

Along with any production from artistic director Stephen Legawiec's marvelous Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble comes magical, mystical worlds of ancient cultures, faraway lands and memorable fantasies that will dazzle your artistic taste buds. Ziggurat is a group of actors who come from a broad array of backgrounds and ethnicities. The thing that brought them together is their love for mythic stories. Their group mission dictates not only the telling of stories but to involve the emotional, physical, musical and visual aspects into their renderings. You can always be assured of an inventive tale told with wonderful colors, with music and dance and movement, and lessons to be taught and lessons to be learned. With his newest work, "Salamanticus," writer/director Legawiec adds very generous helpings of humor and whimsy, which have not been major ingredients in his repertoire to date. And although the comedy of this piece gives it a fluffy, puffy feel, it is not without a solid foundation, grounded around the principles of good and evil, greed and generosity, friendships and loyalties, betrayals and treacheries. With "Salamanticus," Legawiec, once again, delivers.

As narrated by Fibonacci (Luis Zambrano), a renowned, medieval mathematician, presented in a clownish persona, our legend unfolds. The story goes: a Paper Seller (also Zambrano) composes a mysterious book, the Salamanticus, a Book of Destiny which will save the Kingdom of Nor and its depressed King (Michael Klock). The kingdom is now in the hands of the evil Amah (AnnaLisa Erickson), a power-hungry tyrant. The three accidental heroes, searchers of the Salamanticus, are: The Hoop Seller (Lorin Eric Salm), the most gentle, honest and loveable of men; an almost doll-like, sweet Vagrant (Jenny Woo); and a sexy Kai Dancer (Dana Wieluns), who is a bit of a sschemer.

Through many dangers and adventures - including jail, boat trips, a memorable tango with monsters, and an encounter with The Empress Ubrazeng (Linda Borini in a costume encompassing the entire stage with a fine, ethereal effect, a la the angel in "Angels in America') - the book is found.

The players in the stables of the Ziggurat Ensemble are so well trained in their own particular style of magic-making on stage that they are always an expected enchantment. They don't fail to entertain. Zambrano is a good pivotal point for the action, solid and in charge. Woo is terrific, as always, with classic, though not stuffy, deportment. Wieluns is appropriately and nicely flashy and sassy as the dancer. Salm is huggable, a total delight, a joy to watch and listen to. He, most of all, incorporates mime movements into his character and makes them acceptable as more than just an affectation to the genre. Erickson is a wonderful hoot as she chews up the non-existent scenery. Chris Smith (who also serves as assistant director), as Amah's dutiful Lieutenant, and Loren J. Rubin as the Astrologer, add substantial support. Gloria Garayua, Gibson, Borini and Elena Goss make up the Ensemble. Dance choreography is adeptly handled by Wieluns with Tim Storms handily seeing to the martial arts choreography. Legawiec designed the mostly utilitarian lighting and set pieces, highlighted by a wonderful, moving boat made up of persons holding pieces of the side of the ship, and the exciting sound design with drums stirring up the emotional temperature. He also designed some of the costuming, along with Margaret McCarley, Robert Velasquez, and Andres Diaz. Splendid masks are offered by designer Beckie Kravetz and Legawiec.


 

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