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Los Angeles Times Review, March 31, 2006
Back Stage West Review, April 13, 2006, March, 2006

Los Angeles Times
March 31, 2006
Reviewed by Daryl H. Miller

The last days for a 'city of mirrors'

As the city faces its final hours, its residents go on as before, the rich escaping into one final delusion of power while everyone else bears up against the usual exhaustion and frustration. The place is called Tarquinz, but viewers might come to think of this "city of mirrors," as it is described, as Los Angeles. Or perhaps Washington, D.C.

Presented with a nod to the musical "Cabaret," Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble's "The Last Days of Tarquinz" is a series of allegorical skits, dances and clown routines, all presided over by a master of ceremonies. None of the nine scenes — dreamed up by a company that devotes itself to world myths and ritual — comes right out and announces what it's about, but each offers a glimpse of humankind in all its yearning, curious, jealous, conflicted complexity.

The piece was written and directed by company artistic director Stephen Legawiec, with input from the ensemble. The 10 performers wear white makeup that seems to be both clown paint and mask. Nearly all of their movement, coached by Dana Wieluns, is stylized, with several numbers evolving into full-on modern, flamenco or other dances.

In one wordless scene, twin figures in matching gray suits enact a mirror dance that, we come to realize, is a metaphor for people locked into a routine. When one of the figures falls out of step, she realizes that life needn't be so regimented and heads out the door to savor living before it's too late.

We are never told why Tarquinz has reached its last day, and we are never sure whether this enactment of its final hours — in an intermissionless 90 minutes — is meant as a cautionary tale or as a meditation on what civilizations leave behind. This can be frustrating, but it can also be liberating if, like the mirror twin, we manage to break free of routine expectations.

Back Stage West
April 13, 2006
Reviewed by Wenzel Jones

Tarquinz is a city that will end at midnight, by means and for reasons unknown. Not that it matters, for we are firmly in the land Legawiec (comma, Stephen, the writer and director)--a place where the costumes (Robert Velasquez) glimmer and waft and the performances are adroitly stylized. It's a sampling more than a story, in which our showman of a guide (Luis Zambrano) takes us to nine different spots as the city's final day progresses. All we know is that all the inhabitants are aware of their fate and few are attempting to leave. Whether this is fatalism or a particularly strong sense of civic pride is open to interpretation, if that's your wont. Locations are rendered with spare elegance (Dean Purvis on construction, no credit for design), and Susan Christiansen's music is singularly delightful.

Choreography is a large part in the production, and Dana Wieluns' work fits seamlessly into whole--at least most of the time. The dances often lend an air of fantasy and wonder, say, when a monk in morning prayer (Cary Thompson) finds Wieluns' shimmering limbs emerging from his cloak. There is the occasional clunk, such as the scene in the catacombs-Tarquinz is nothing if not a place with great locations--with Dancing Woman In Mask (Linda Borini) doing some sort of modern thrashing about upstage while a seemingly unrelated hostage situation plays out before our eyes. One wants to toss a net over Borini and drag her to a scene in which the dance fits rather than distracts.

The actors run about in whiteface and get to be very actory, and this is exactly the sort of show in which they can get away with it. The cast of 10 is nicely attuned to one another and quite game when it comes to subsuming ego to the vision. Even so, the lanky Daniel Campagna makes an impression as both a mime and a spoiled rich kid, and Wieluns has an especially charming moment as an impish lad with a slingshot. AnnaLisa Erickson does a sort of Anna Christie turn in the last scene and supplies the perfect punctuation to what is, after all, the end of the end of days.
March, 2006

In the distinguished history of the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble, they have made only one demand of their audience; check in your sense of reality at the door.

The Last Days of Tarquinz is no different. Written and directed by Stephen Legawiec, this piece abounds with the sense of going where no one has gone before, as Legawiec creates a mythical world steeped in symbolism, yet firmly rooted to the human frailties we all know only too well.

We drop in on the city of Tarquinz on its last day of existence. We don’t know why it’s the last day, or what will happen next, and for being the last day, people seem remarkably calm and unpreoccupied, but it doesn’t matter because our guide, Oliver, a sort of Chaplinesque figure, tells us that we will visit various parts of this fabled city on this last day, "once famous for its ornate palaces and domes, reflected in the shimmering waters of its lagoon" and that the citizens all have a secret, to be shared only with a select group of visitors. In a starkly empty stage, the journey begins as various citizens create their own reality and seem to go about their business-as-usual day.

As we visit the various parts of the city, the tabloids play out in deep shadows, glaring lights, dead silence, or raucous noise, with actors in white face interacting and exploring their idiosyncrasies and wants.

While there is no obvious connection between the scenes which advance from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. there is a common thread among them. From the Mirror Maker’s studio, a wonderful Daliesque romp into surrealism, to the Bar on Funnel Street where secret truths blurt out, the scenes all suggest an anxiety blanketed by a pseudo calm.

The Monastery of Sana Veneshko which depicts a lonely battle against temptation is one of the most compelling scenes, and acts as a bookend to the Budoir of the Losborusch-Gudbika, which blatantly delves into the pleasures of the flesh.

Every place we visit is more extraordinary than the last, and each character is more fantastic than the previous one. What about that deep secret the citizens all harbor? Since it will be shared with only a few, you need to be there to see if you are among them.

The actors, wonderfully costumed, are excellent in creating a world that is so bizarrely unreal, that after awhile one begins to believe it could actually exist. Led by Luis Zambrano as the guide, the cast includes Linda Borini, Corinda Bravo, Daniel Campagna, Momo Casablanca, AnnaLisa Erickson, Betsy Hume, Lorin Eric Salm, Cary Thompson, and artistic director Dana Wieluns.

No question that Stephen Legawiec’s imagination marches to a totally different drum, but so incredible is his vision that, like the children of Hamelin, we blithely follow his trek knowing that no matter what we find at the end, the journey will be rewarding and fascinating.

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