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City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center
Santa Monica, CA
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City Garage presents the world premiere of Opheliamachine by Magda Romanska. This bold new text conveys the complexity of a century of women's experiences in a series of kaleidoscopic episodes.

A fierce, modern-day Ophelia is trapped in place inside the machinery that has created her consciousness, fighting to be heard. Hamlet, overwhelmed by the ceaseless flood of media, watches TV mindlessly, flipping channels with his remote control, consuming a mish-mash of human beauty and horror, a daily soup of innocence and violence. He wants to understand the world but all he can do is stare at it. The two of them are on opposite sides, between them, the Atlantic Ocean.

This smart, ruthlessly funny play, tracks Ophelia's impossible journey to bridge that vast space. It is a postmodern tale of love, sex, porn, and politics in the fragmented world of our confused emotions and our modern, global, virtual sexuality.

"Opheliamachine embodies a profound understanding of drama, the poetic nature of the stage and the politics of aesthetics. Opheliamachine is a gorgeous new creation."
Anne Bogart, Director

"If the modern take on Hamlet is that his consciousness inhibits his ability to act, then the ironies of Opheliamachine posit that radical analysis can be the enemy of effective political action, or put another way, that gender awareness is no refuge from the truism that each of us must reckon ourselves as our own most implacable adversary. Romanska covers a lot of ground as her characters spew erudite invective critiquing the omnipresent oppression of a sexist hierarchy: though less than an hour in length, this is sometimes a crushingly dense exegesis of a half century of women's studies and post-modern literary theory. Romanska is a well-versed academic and accomplished dramaturg, and she heeds the cherished advice to write about what she knows. Thankfully, she has a vision comprehensive enough to relish irony and pose deeper questions than mere indictment. If the world might be viewed more rewardingly without the arbitrary distinctions between the sexes, those prejudices must be confronted if any substantive change is to be accomplished in the world as it is. Romanska dramatizes the wisdom that confrontation comprises only the first essential steps. House director Frédérique Michel and her collaborator, producer-designer Charles A. Duncombe, are well within their element with this potentially intractable material, bringing to bear some of the stage strategies that distinguish their interpretations of Ionesco: capable of underlining emphasis with a graceful hand, sharing with their actors a complete dedication to the singularity of the text and never condescending to simplifying complexity. This funny yet brutal play needs the inventive mise-en-scene to support its fecundity of ideas amidst the tumult of its conflicting impulses. And don't be afraid: It is OK, even purgative, to laugh."

The Hollywood Reporter, Myron Meisel  

"I expel all the semen which I have received. I transform the milk of my breasts into deadly poison." Lifted from Heiner Müller's eternally confounding Hamletmachine, the words are a fitting part of the opening tableau of Polish playwright Magda Romanska's similarly themed postmodernist drama, now in its world premiere at City Garage. Seated behind an old typewriter on a stage that's segmented into halves, Ophelia is realized as something of a triadic entity -- brain/narrator, terrorist and madwoman (Kat Johnston, Megan Kim, Saffron Mazzia), while Hamlet (Joss Glennie Smith), situated in the other half of the stage, mostly watches television. Romanska uses this framework for a vigorous deconstruction of the feminine psyche, image and gender roles, and her script -- heavy laden with dense imagery and symbolism -- explores love, sex, violence, politics, class sensibilities, feminist aesthetics, the vacuities of mass culture and the timeless mystery of death. This is theater that's not easily accessible and is devilishly bleak at times, but it's not without shards of humor, and is relentlessly provocative and challenging under imaginative direction by Frédérique Michel. The production is nicely embellished with a collage of visuals projected on a huge screen and two monitors. Cynthia Mance, RJ Jones and Leah Harf round out the cast."

GO LA Weekly, Lovell Estell III

"Müller's play [Hamletmachine] had transformed Ophelia from victim to Electra-fied avenger, but Romanska, not satisfied with its persistent patriarchal baggage, focuses on gender relations and the struggle to liberate feminine identity from its cultural and political determinants. A writer seated at a typewriter, this Ophelia (Kat Johnston), creates her own story through stream-of-consciousness monologues as densely associative and enigmatic as Müller's, while Hamlet (Joss Glennie-Smith) sits on the sidelines enslaved to TV programming. Director Frederique Michel launches her staging with Ophelia's enraged final speech from Müller's play, neatly bridging the two productions and establishing specificity when Romanska's Ophelia announces her determination not to identify with the past. Easier said than done amid contemporary media-driven conformist pressures (smartly expressed in Charles A. Duncombe's video-saturated production design). Further emphasizing Ophelia's struggle, Michel employs her "Hamletmachine" device in representing a protagonist's fractured psyche with multiple actors (Johnston, Megan Kim, Saffron Mazzia, Leah Harf). Though Ophelia's quest for self-determination teeters on the brink of inevitable annihilation, compared with perpetually servile Horatio (RJ Jones) or shopaholic Gertrude (Cynthia Mance) she "fails better" (in Samuel Beckett's sense). With few traditional theater points of reference to navigate by, her uncompromising journey is not for the intellectually incurious."

LA Times, Philip Brandes

"In Polish playwright Magda Romanska's "Opheliamachine," we find multiple characters and voices representing Ophelia as she confronts a world of contradictory images for women, while considering her choices about a brooding Hamlet who "wants to understand the world but all he can do is stare." Ophelia, on the other hand, speaks of her "self sufficiency and fits of self adoration" considering "the dread I want you to fill up or the dread that is not numbness  wanting to be desired, waiting to be respected " while facing "the nightmare of desire or its lack." As always at City Garage, you could call the theatrical approach "experimental" and it's highly, but cleanly, produced. This is not a linear narrative. There are video screens with relentlessly scrolling news, talking heads and reality show footage beaming into our consciousness on a global level. On stage we see a parade of shapely women in blue wigs and backless red dresses; Hamlet with a guitar; a white-coated crooner in a spotlight; a narrator punching the keys of an old-school manual typewriter sitting above the action on the stage, where multi-level platforms expand the small stage's performance space. Hamlet is less a character and more a spur to Ophelia's search for self awareness. Even if you don't "get it" as it goes along, don't worry, there'll be plenty to talk and perhaps argue about post-theatre, where much of the meaning will be subject to your own filters and interpretation."

Santa Monica Daily Press, Sarah Spitz


City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
United States


Arts > Theatre

Minimum Age: 15
Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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