According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LIGA: 50% reward & 50% punishment

If there is a fountain of youth, the behavioral theater-initiative Kassys has tapped into it with their new play, LIGA: 50% reward & 50 punishment. Their brave work captures the sort of pure make-believe that is rarely seen these days: the result is surprisingly comic.

Photo/Klaas Paradies

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Kids will be kids, but it's quite another thing when adults can be kids. Especially when it's done believably so. LIGA, 50% reward & 50% punishment ought to be retitled "100% risk & 100% reward," for this "liga" (Dutch for "league") of actors, the theater-initiative Kassys, has stepped out on a very fragile limb and captured the attention of an audience that has largely forgotten how to play. If there is a fountain of youth, Kassys has tapped it: such spontaneity, purity of behavior, and intense make-believe is rarely seen onstage.

If one requires a plot, LIGA follows the cast as they grow from individual children, each playing with whatever props they find in whichever way they please, into a group working together to make a barbecue (a rather ingenious example of group-think), and finally into an older group, one that now substitutes clever puns for cleverer actions. But the play works fully as an engaging exploration of human interaction, right down to the scolding supervision of Klass Paradies, who tries to rein in the more dangerous recreations of scaffold-hanging Marc Stoffels, or the unconscious sexuality of Willemijn Zevenhuijzen. These are outstanding actors, from the pride Harm van Geel finds in a belt that he finds, to the attention-starved nuance (or lack thereof) in Thijs Bloothoofd, not to mention the shy meanderings of the creative Esther Snelder.

Even the filmed opening of LIGA seems natural; there's a sparkle in the close-up eyes of the cast as they are caught on camera awkwardly leaving the stage; contentedly celebrating with the director, Liesebeth Gritter; and then abashedly exiting the theater with their families. There is, in fact, such an cohesive aura to this group that even when the film notes "One hour earlier" and rolls up the projection screen to reveal the live set (and, one by one, the actors), there isn't a hint of artifice. It is pretendious, not pretentious.

LIGA: 50% reward & 50% punishment (75 minutes)
Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street)
Tickets (212-967-7555): $15
Performances: 1/16 @ 7 | 1/17 @ 9:30 | 1/18 @ 7

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