Theatre Forever's The Brutes explores brutality and war

Categories: Theater
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An industrial space on Minnehaha Avenue has been transformed into an imaginary country for Theatre Forever's new production. The Brutes, conceived and directed by Jon Ferguson, investigates war and violence in an undefined time period. The play features a cast of seven, with text by Dominic Orlando, sound by Tim Cameron, and lighting by Wu Chen Khoo. 

Ferguson got the idea for the show while watching a travel documentary, called New Europe, where Michael Palin explores different countries in Eastern and Central Europe. One of the places featured was called Transnistria, a breakaway territory that is mostly unrecognized by the other countries surrounding it. The documentary portrays Transnistria as a deeply nationalistic country, with lots of military parades, leaders wearing military clothing, and people who are very vocal about their pride in their land. 

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Photo by Jon Ferguson
Ferguson says that the segment got him thinking about what it means to feel so much a part of the soil. "What would it take for me to fight for the place that I'm from?" he remembers thinking.

The company held a workshop production last fall, and further developed the piece this summer. Dario Tangelson, one of the actors who was part of the development and performs in the current production, says the workshop was about exploring themes of brutality and war. They avoided specifying a time and place, although there's a feeling of the two world wars, and of Europe.

The process included a lot of improvisation and devising work, as well as coming up with the story, which playwright Dominic Orlando turned into a script. 

The set, composed of palettes, an old truck, and objects such as dioramas and specimen jars filled former lands and mists from the valley -- relics of their history; origin stories from the country's grander past -- indicate how little the tiny country has left. "They are a people pushed from all sides," Ferguson says. They are reduced to rituals and anthems, and things they do each day help them "believe they are still existing," he says. 

The war, taking place all around them, has taken over, and the characters display brutality toward each other. There are large group fights and torture scenes. It is their last day, Ferguson says, but it is just like any other day. 

Tim Cameron, who has created the sound design, says that the music and sound sets the tone for the piece, and acts as kind of a lament for what's going on. The equipment, for both the sound and the lights, has largely been borrowed or donated, with theater seats provided Bedlam Theater. The rental of the space itself was negotiated through Seward Redesign, which offered a low cost rental for the space. 

IF YOU GO:

The Brutes
June 7-30
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 7 p.m. Sun.
2204 Minneahaha Ave., Minneapolis
Tickets are $20; $15 with Fringe button, seniors, and students.
Pay what you can on June 13, 20 and 27


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