I don’t like bugs. Not even a little bit. The good news is The Insect Play has little to do with bugs and more to do with those things that drive us as humans – the desire for sex, the desire to own things and the desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. We humans, Czech playwright Karel Capek tells us, are not so high and mighty; the lowly insects are as sexually driven and materially and militarily obsessed as we are.
First staged in New York in 1922, The Insect Play, with its satirically-veiled warnings against fascism, is still relevant today and Scena Theatre and director John McNamara succeed in bringing out the wonderful comic fantasy that is the joy of this play. Cynicism and substantial satire are in abundance even in the overly long ant sequence when one just wants to start spraying the whole stage with Raid.
A drunken traveler wanders into this larger than life insect world and by play’s end has learned quite a bit about life and how to live it. The three act play starts off with a group of overly energetic, sex starved butterflies. The second act opens with various dung beetles, grubs and other creepy critters out to get their piece of the pie or something at least as tasty. The third act is Capek’s statement on Nationalism using a couple of warring ant armies to show how fruitless war really is.
The performances of the ensemble cast are fantastic and the physical humor witty and highly accessible. At times the show is so funny one forgets that it has pointed lessons to be learned.
Scena’s production and staging are brilliant. I was struck with the fantastic costumes (Alisa Mandel) and bright, vivid sets (Micha Kachman). Designer David Krandall’s sounds of the insect world filled the Warehouse space. The lighting (Maryanne Meadows) is adventurous and full of movement. Kaleidoscopic effects during the first act complimented the colorful tie-died costumes adorned with wings and antennae.
The creepy crawlies of Scena’s The Insect Play do wear their welcome thin in an overly long third act. That said, the production is well paced and realized by director Robert McNamara. For this reviewer, the buggy costumes and wonderful lighting were alone worth spending a drizzly night on Seventh Street.
The Insect Play, by Karel Capek. Directed by Robert McNamara; About 2 hours 15 minutes. Through Nov. 19, 2006 at Warehouse Theatre Mainstage, 1021 Seventh Street NW. Call 703-684-7990 or visit http://www.scenatheatre.org .
- Karen Says:
October 31st, 2006 at 2:09 pm
Your review reflects my experience. “Brilliant” was my word, too, for this exciting production. Despite the occasional over-long segments, the text’s psychological, sociological, and entomological observations were acute, astute, clever & witty … as were the production elements. I found it an enthralling theatrical experience … for teens as well as adults.