Medicine Show: L.A. Weekly "Pick of the Week"
transporting. From the parking lot of Coldwater Canyon Park, guides
with flashlights lead the audience down a dusty trail to the rustic
stage and audience bleachers. (Towels are provided to clear condensation
from the seats.) On the night I attended, a shroud of fog was pierced
by a quarter moon. A 19th century, top-hatted, bespectacled Driver (writer-director
Stephen Legawiec) sits at a work-bench, crooning ditties in front of
a billboard that advertises a performance of The Birds, a "Navajo
Indian story culminating in a festive dance." But there’s
no show, Driver explains. The actors are all backstage, dying from a
strange malady. A French-speaking prop girl (Alyssa Lupo) appears, as
Driver shows us a puppet he’s building, which represents a wandering
boy who can’t sleep from being tormented by demons. "Maybe
he’ll carry a lantern," Driver ponders, just as we see a
lantern on a distant hill carried by a Boy (Ogie Zulueta), who passes
behind the billboard and onto the stage, and in sign language begs the
prop girl for some food. Indeed, gibberish-speaking, choreographed masked
spirits torment him, accompanied by haunting a cappella chorals, culminating
in the Navajo Dance of the Birds – all within an hour. Legawiec,
among the most idiosyncratically visionary directors we have, picks
up where he left off with his The Cure, offering a partly invented,
partly researched anthropological theater that’s as memorable
for its winking wit and raw beauty as for its mesmerizing power. Leave
logic at home. The Medicine Show speaks in truths that are part tribal,
part Jungian. Miss it at your cost."
Leigh Morris, © LA Weekly, October 22-28, 1999
The Medicine Show: Los Angeles Times
Old West Meets the New Age
gets underway well before the start of Ziggurat Theatre’s "The
Medicine Show," an environmental staging that weaves Old West frontier
heritage with Navajo mythology at Coldwater Canyon Park.
the theatrical envelope toward a more complete immersion in the exploration
of cultural wellsprings is the continuing goal of Ziggurat artistic
director Stephen Legawiec. Here, the assembled audience is escorted
en masse by flashlight-bearing guides down a rustic trail – not
a strenuous trek, but far enough to sever us from the context of contemporary
at a footlit encampment where a lonely wagon hawking "Miracle Tonic"
looms in the background (seating is provided in a sole concession to
creature comfort), we’re informed by the rugged wagon driver-narrator
(Legawiec) that the performance is off because of a mysterious illness
the troupe has contracted. After a brief confessional about duping settlers
with bogus elixirs, he turns to the Indian lore and rituals that draw
crowds – and one particular resurrection myth about a young warrior
battling evil spirits.
slyly sets the stage for the legend itself to spring to life, as a starving
stranger (Ogie Zulueta) staggers into the camp, seeking aid from a French-speaking
servant girl (Alyssa Lupo). As he falls into a fevered delirium haunted
by shrouded, masked demons (Tess Borden, Ben Gonio, Tonilyn Hornung,
Constance Hsu, Beverly Sotelo and Mario J. Yates), what transpires is
an archetypal descent enacted through an ingenious mix of dance, ritual,
and commedia. The visually arresting results are presented with a clarity
that renders dialogue unnecessary.
but dress for the mountain climate and terrain (heels are a bad idea)."
Brandes, © Los Angeles Times, October 15,1999