Revisor, by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young, asks some tough questions

REVISOR created by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young (Kidd Pivot/Canadian Stage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to.


REVISOR created by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young (Kidd Pivot/Canadian Stage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to March 16. $51-$111. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN

You better pay attention when you go see Revisor, the new full-length work from Kidd Pivot. Creators Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young set a blistering pace and you wont want to get left behind.

This clever dance/theatre hybrid features a motley group of bureaucrats. Together, they run an unspecified complex far from an unspecified centralized power. Into this vaguely Russian backwater arrives the Revisor (Tiffany Tregarthen wearing a very fake beard) and her assistant Osip (David Raymond). The revisor is just that, a petty clerk who revises legal documents, but the group mistakes her for a higher-ranking official with real power to make changes.

On paper the work is a nod to Nikolai Gogols classic 1836 farce Revizor (also known in modern iterations as The Inspector General), and initially exhibits farcical hallmarks: an overly complicated plot, exaggerated action performed at an extreme pace for laughs.

Youngs script was pre-recorded by various actors and serves as a score to drive the dancers movement. The effect is cartoon-like as the performers lip-synch the voice-over while gesturing broadly. There is also a layer of disembodied narration, albeit tentative and prone to… well, revision.

In the second half, with a flip Pite has used before (notably in Betroffenheit and Dark Matters), props and costumes fall away and things get dancier and more abstract yet somehow also more real.

The physicality becomes intense and more reflective of internal struggles. Text remains, but is now all over the place as Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roes aural design amplifies and distorts, the metre of the words becoming a beat that drives the movement. Single phrases are excised from the text (I want to make one small revision or I am within this even as I contain this) and looped.

The dancers, though effective actors and lip-synchers, are at their most brilliantly eloquent navigating the rapid lunges, twists and torques of Pites choreography.

Interdependent ensemble movement flows back and forth through space, suggesting at times a single floating organism with a shared sensibility.

Each cast member also has shining solo moments.

Raymond dances framed vertically by an overhead hanging light fixture, his physical expression of frustration (Its impossible!) concentrated and contained within that pinpoint of illumination.

Tregarthens redux the subject is moved solo offers a moody humanistic reaction to too much information.

Jermaine Spiveys postmaster, who has such trouble with the words and messages entrusted to his care that he basically goes off the rails, dances an anguished yet defiant solo to the accompanying text loop kill the comedy.

Revisor is never really a laugh riot. Even in the early hyper-stylized scenes, its honed to a level of textual and physical sophistication that triggers fascination and a state of anxiety, but rarely the abandon of laughter. Among the many revisions Pite and Young are playing with and layering up is a revision of form, taking what they need from the farce tradition to create something completely new.

In the end, plot points resolved, all that beautiful movement a distant memory, the audience may feel wonder at the final frozen tableau, but also a powerful sense of deja vu. Here we are again, human failings fully on display, corruption and the farcical forces of public life swirling around us.

Why are we here? What does it all mean? Cool, clever and provoking, Revisor asks some tough questions.

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