Ancient Lives OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Emon Hassan
  • NY TIMES

  • Opening Night:
    January 7, 2015
    Closing:
    January 17, 2015

    Theater: The Kitchen / 512 W 19th St, New York, NY, 10011

    Synopsis: 

    In Half Straddle’s Kitchen debut, writer/director Tina Satter merges teen movie influences from the late 80s, a live mixed score, and video landscape to create a brand new coming of age narrative. A teacher leads three students away from society. When they start an alternative TV station in the woods and meet a young witch who alters the group dynamic, their fragile new family begins to fray. Seventeenth-century captivity narratives, adolescent letters of Emily Dickinson, the teen movies, and more infect this darkly humorous consideration of how we make meaning for ourselves and our communities.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Ancient Lives

    Plunging Teenage Angst Deeper Into the Woods

    Ben Brantley

    January 12, 2015: A lively squadron of archetypes, long familiar to fans of popular myths, wanders into a mysterious forest. Uncanny and unsettling things happen there, including encounters with a witch. Songs are sung, lessons are learned, and by the end all these explorers have grown just a bit in their knowledge of life’s uncertainties. You think you know this story already? It’s true that variations on it are being told a lot these days, what with both a current movie version and an Off Broadway revival of the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical Into the Woods. But the particular retelling I’m thinking of is a play by Tina Satter called Ancient Lives, which opened on Saturday at the Kitchen. And when Ms. Satter heads into the woods, I assure you it’s a very different head trip. Ms. Satter is a genre-and-gender-bending, visually exacting stage artist who has developed an ardent following among downtown aesthetes with a taste for acidic eye candy and erotic enigmas. She has transformed the Chekhovian drama of regret into an ethereal sexual pretzel in Seagull (Thinking of You), and the small-town, big-dreams showbiz drama into a delightfully deadpan and compassionate portrait of stunted lives (with hints of sexual pretzels, natch) in House of Dance. She specializes in shades of femininity, and in the inner and outer forces that shape and warp our ideas of womanhood. And though Ancient Lives sort of follows the format of Grimm’s fairy tales, don’t expect to find Rapunzel and Cinderella and their respective princes in residence. Ms. Satter has instead populated her labyrinthine woodland with a clique of teenage girls, all in thrall to Paula, a charismatic teacher of elocution and literature who sets up a sort of commune devoted to the recitation of Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. Paula, played with deliciously self-assured pretentiousness by Lucy Taylor, is a most seductive mentor, who expects her acolytes to communicate with her by brain waves.

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