Curtain Call: Nature Theater of Oklahoma

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Pavol Liska, a director for the Nature Theater of Oklahoma (hailing, oddly enough, from New York City), assumed asking people to tell him a story would be a great way to get ideas for his next script.

But all he got were ramblings about jobs, home life and drinking problems. So Liska decided to rework his angle. Instead, he asked people, "Can you tell me this story?"

And the specific stories he asked people to tell were the well-known tales of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Rambo." Those verbatim retellings from memory became the subject for Nature Theater's next big theatrical projects, co-produced by the Wexner Center and presented through this weekend at the Wex.

Liska and his directing partner Kelly Copper have recreated these classic stories in a way that begs the audience to reflect on the concept of storytelling and our culture's unavoidable love affair with it.

In "Romeo and Juliet," wrapping up tonight in the Wexner Center's Black Box, Shakespeare's original is reimagined as a clever entanglement of nine varying takes on the tragic love story. The end result is anything but tragic.

"We weren't that interested in the story in particular," Copper said. "We use the story as, really, an excuse to explore more basic questions about what trace a story leaves, why story matters, how do people consume and personalize stories, and what purpose does story serve in our lives?"

"Rambo Solo," set for May 21-23 in the Wex's Performance Space, will give new meaning to the term "solo act." The Nature Theater directors wanted to explore the obvious narcissism of the one-man show while also toying with competing versions of the same story.

Actor and collaborator Zachary Oberzan will perform live in front of a previously recorded video triptych. The screens depict three of his rehearsal performances, filmed three separate times in Oberzan's cramped apartment.

Not only are each of the film panels mistake-ridden - and they should be, considering they were individually filmed in three solid takes - but Oberzan methodically attempts to recreate those mistakes on stage.

The end result demonstrates the inherent un-repeatability of live performance. Similar, in fact, to the art of storytelling.

Oh, and the actor uses the novel "First Blood" as his basis rather than the awesomely brutal Sylvester Stallone flick.

Curious why? Oberzan will tell you (a few times) on stage.

"Romeo and Juliet"

When: Through Thursday, May 20

Where: Wexner Center Black Box, Campus

"Rambo Solo"

When: Friday-Sunday, May 21-23

Where: Wexner Center Performance Space, Campus