HARLEQUINO: ON TO FREEDOM

Critics

LemonMeter

100 %

Reviews: 7

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

Written and directed by Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom combines Commedia dell'Arte, Shakespearean tragedy, live music and sophisticated comedy to produce a dialectic on the meaning of freedom.

This new musical celebrates a particular kind of theater created by the Italians 500 years ago, the Commedia dell'Arte, and explores the 16th century actors' limits of free expression in the authoritarian environment they lived in. As the story evolves, a conflict between a group of rogue actors and a Commedia dell'Arte expert becomes a battle for the soul of the Commedia, questioning the purpose of art, what is funny, and who writes history. Ultimately the musical asks the question: What must the artist risk to live freely in today's world?

In researching Harlequino: On to Freedom, Robbins discovered an account from the 16th century that tells of a Duke Gonzaga of Mantua who, after watching a Commedia play, ordered three of the actors to be executed. Although no text survives, this incident raises questions about the nature of the relationship between power and society's truth tellers. “We began to see a connection between those 16th century performers and artists in today's world. From threats of eliminating the NEA to the radical suppression of art by Caliphates and fundamentalists, these questions have a deep resonance in today's environment.” says Robbins.

Harlequino: On to Freedom is dedicated to the Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo who offered his support and tutelage to Robbins, a mentorship that continued through the summer of 2016, shortly before Fo's death at age 90.

Reviews

Deborah Klugman

Writer/director Tim Robbins' Harlequino: On to Freedom at the Actors' Gang is a messy, boisterous show that runs nearly two and a half hours before the message it wants to deliver about personal freedom and self-determination comes through simply and clearly. Along the way, however, it features first-class talent, colorful spectacle and enough historical detail about commedia dell' arte to keep audiences entertained and involved.

sweet - Deborah Klugman - StageRaw - ...read full review


Avatar

Harlequino: On to Freedom is a clean cut jewel.

sweet - Judith Martin-Straw - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder

With committed standout performances all around—particularly Bob Turton as a Pulcinella that feels lifted directly from Orwell's 1984 and Pierre Adeli as a riotously inappropriate Pantalone—the ensemble grabs this epic modern Commedia by its leotard-stretched balls, paying wonderful homage to Tim Robbins' amazing script, as well as his gloriously slick staging, clever score, and precision choreography. And along the way, Robbins' warning about the precarious state of our own cherished freedom, right at this very moment, is an urgent cry for us all to get off our complacent asses and join to stop the madness being foisted on the planet all around us.

sweet - Travis Michael Holder - ...read full review


Avatar

With an incredible cast of improvisers, The Actors' Gang proves that even plays that look out of date and obsolete can be more cutting edge and challenging to our perceptions than what we blindly accept as new. Harlequino: On To Freedom is a breath of fresh air in the world of international productions to come to China. It's certainly not for everyone — it's wild, unruly, and difficult at times — but at the same time there is something for anyone.

sweet - August Cohlmia - ...read full review


Avatar

Under his crack direction, all the elements come together to form a cohesive, rare evening of theatre, manifesting in an outlandish combination of high and low comedy, telling the story of love and resistance in an authoritarian society. Special shout out to David Silverman for the outstanding look of the program and show art. Commedia del'Arte is not a discipline that comes down our theatrical pike too often but if you love plays, and want to see something quite different, you owe it to yourself to experience this awesome evening of very unusual theatre.

sweet - Beverly Cohn - ...read full review


Avatar

The two-acter is rendered with much tomfoolery and comic panache, as – talk about transgressing and transcending categorical boundaries – The Actors' Gang tosses other genres into the commedia dell'arte stew: Vaudeville, Burlesque and physical comedy in the tradition of silent cinema.

sweet - Ed Rampell - ...read full review


Avatar

Merging abundant slapstick, clever wordplay (only some of which would be printable here) and Robbins' original songs, “Harlequino” serves as an inventive and informative deep dive into a rich theatrical tradition. Williams' performance alone is a crash course in commedia presentation.

sweet - Philip Brandes - ...read full review


Deborah Klugman

Writer/director Tim Robbins' Harlequino: On to Freedom at the Actors' Gang is a messy, boisterous show that runs nearly two and a half hours before the message it wants to deliver about personal freedom and self-determination comes through simply and clearly. Along the way, however, it features first-class talent, colorful spectacle and enough historical detail about commedia dell' arte to keep audiences entertained and involved.

sweet - Deborah Klugman - StageRaw - ...read full review


Avatar

Harlequino: On to Freedom is a clean cut jewel.

sweet - Judith Martin-Straw - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder

With committed standout performances all around—particularly Bob Turton as a Pulcinella that feels lifted directly from Orwell's 1984 and Pierre Adeli as a riotously inappropriate Pantalone—the ensemble grabs this epic modern Commedia by its leotard-stretched balls, paying wonderful homage to Tim Robbins' amazing script, as well as his gloriously slick staging, clever score, and precision choreography. And along the way, Robbins' warning about the precarious state of our own cherished freedom, right at this very moment, is an urgent cry for us all to get off our complacent asses and join to stop the madness being foisted on the planet all around us.

sweet - Travis Michael Holder - ...read full review


Avatar

With an incredible cast of improvisers, The Actors' Gang proves that even plays that look out of date and obsolete can be more cutting edge and challenging to our perceptions than what we blindly accept as new. Harlequino: On To Freedom is a breath of fresh air in the world of international productions to come to China. It's certainly not for everyone — it's wild, unruly, and difficult at times — but at the same time there is something for anyone.

sweet - August Cohlmia - ...read full review


Avatar

Under his crack direction, all the elements come together to form a cohesive, rare evening of theatre, manifesting in an outlandish combination of high and low comedy, telling the story of love and resistance in an authoritarian society. Special shout out to David Silverman for the outstanding look of the program and show art. Commedia del'Arte is not a discipline that comes down our theatrical pike too often but if you love plays, and want to see something quite different, you owe it to yourself to experience this awesome evening of very unusual theatre.

sweet - Beverly Cohn - ...read full review


Avatar

The two-acter is rendered with much tomfoolery and comic panache, as – talk about transgressing and transcending categorical boundaries – The Actors' Gang tosses other genres into the commedia dell'arte stew: Vaudeville, Burlesque and physical comedy in the tradition of silent cinema.

sweet - Ed Rampell - ...read full review


Avatar

Merging abundant slapstick, clever wordplay (only some of which would be printable here) and Robbins' original songs, “Harlequino” serves as an inventive and informative deep dive into a rich theatrical tradition. Williams' performance alone is a crash course in commedia presentation.

sweet - Philip Brandes - ...read full review