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Larry Littany Litt
Conceived and Directed by Mara Lieberman
Devised by Bated Breath Theatre Company
Original Music by Nathan Leigh
Performed at Madame X
Reviewed 6 Dec 2019 by Larry Littany Litt
Art history can be a boring subject. Nerdly academics and rich girls wanting to be in the art industry abound in the best galleries and museums. Not the case with Bated Breath’s Unmaking Toulouse-Lautrec. In this wildly funny, sexy, and I would say educational romp through the master’s life we’re treating to music, dance, eroticism and beautiful women as Henri T-L may have seen and felt them.
This intimate entertainment is an art lovers dream come true. We are transported into the Moulin Rouge as it was: a Parisian nightclub where anything goes and often does. Yet there are real people with deep feelings of love, loss, acceptance and rejection. Henri led a full artistic and sexual life there.
Daniel George breathes life into the crippled Henri with a pathos that ends when he reveals to us what moving art he’s capable of. George has a knack of being happy and sad at the same time.
Jane Avril, the most famous woman in 19th century French art, is Kat Christensen’s doppleganger. Christensen sings, dances and loves the way a Parisian entertainer and prostitute would have. Her youthful charm can turn sophisticated on a dime. You had better offer her many francs for her favors, or else trouble looms.
Every nightclub featuring a full range of pleasures needs a well dressed pimp. Luke Couzens not only looks like Aristide Bruant he plays him with a dangerously quiet but firm dominance.
Mia Aguirre and Glori del Filippone are elegant and earthy nightclub attractions. They round out a chorus and dance line that makes the Follies Bergere come alive in New York.
For me it was Henri’s mother Adele played by Derya Celikkol who takes this show out of the realm of playful erotic fantasy. She subtly charges the artist with real life. Her sympathy, love and disappointment, caring and frustration for Henri made him, for me, a compassionate, giving flesh and blood man. For what is an artist without a mother to tell him he’s wasting his life? Perhaps an Abstract Expressionist. Certainly Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was never that.
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