Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Aurélia's Oratorio
Mandell Weiss Theatre

Aurélia Thierrée
Aurélia's Oratorio is something of a misnomer, if you use a traditional definition of the word "oratorio." Because the production, now performing through February 28, is not an unstaged opera, usually on religious themes, that features a chorus as a central element. Yet, it is an operatic performance piece that mashes up theatre, dance and music with circus and magic to create a stunning series of visual images.

They say that circus, like theatre, gets into your blood—and it certainly has for Aurélia Thierrée and her mother, creator and director Victoria Thierrée Chaplin. Ms. Chaplin, who was born in California, settled in Europe after her father, Charlie Chaplin, a British citizen, was denied a re-entry permit to the United States while he and his family were vacationing. She continued her father's tradition of clowning by beginning Le Cirque Bonjour with her husband, Jean Baptiste Thierrée. While traditional in scope, this circus blended more theatrical elements into the big top. As the family went along, the traditional circus elements kept being peeled away, eliminating the animal acts and focusing more on the couple's dance and contortionist abilities. Once Aurélia and her brother were born, they were incorporated into the act, which evolved into Le Cirque Imaginaire and eventually into Le Cirque Invisible. The family members also toured with solo acts, drawn at least in part from the different cirque performances.

Aurélia's Oratorio is the solo act Ms. Thierrée Chaplin created for her daughter, though Ms. Thierrée shares the stage with performer Jaime Martinez and three women (Tamara Prieto Arroyo, Antonia Paradiso, and Monika Schwarzi) who are credited as "backstage support" but who appear onstage in costumes at various points in the show.

Ms. Thierrée Chaplin has her hands in all aspects of the production: she is the director, the stage designer, the sound designer (with Paolo Barcucchi) and the costume designer (with Jacques Perdiguez, Veronique Grand, and Ms. Schwarzi). And her involvement shows, from the stark contrast of black-and-white costumes with red curtains, the careful selection of music to accompany the almost-wordless performance, and the precise timing of individual scenes, individual movements and the sweeping emotional arc of the 75-minute, no intermission, production.

Ah, but you ask, what is Aurélia's Oratorio about? I have to admit that I've wracked my brain looking for themes (and there seem to be some) and how they fit together, to no avail. I'm guessing that the performance is designed more to be experienced than understood, and there is no doubt that the experience is a compelling one.

La Jolla Playhouse presents, in association with ArKtype and Crying Out Loud UK, Aurélia Thierrée in Aurélia's Oratorio February 3-28, 2010 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre. Ticket prices are $25 - $45. Tickets are available by calling (858) 550-1010, at or by visiting the La Jolla Playhouse Box Office.. Created and directed by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, with technical director/stage manager Gerd Walter, lighting technician Roberto Riegert, sound technician Nicholas Lazzaro, and backstage support Tamara Prieto Arroyo, Antonia Paradiso, and Monika Schwarzi. Lighting design by Laura de Bernadis and Philippe Lacombe, sound design by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin and Paolo Barcucchi, stage design by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, and costume design by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, Jacques Perdiguez, Veronique Grand, and Monika Schwarzi.

With performers Aurélia Thierrée and Jaime Martinez.

Photo: Richard Haughton

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

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