Press for The Beauty Inside:
VILLAGE VOICE – May 4, 2005 – Page 4
The Beauty Inside Culture Project, 45 Bleecker, 212-868-4444. Outside Istanbul, Yalova (Tatiana Gomberg)—a teenage rape victim-escapes an "honor killing" only to fall into a culture war. Reluctant to shame her religious family, she resents the secular state's help. Devrim (Jennifer Gibbs), her Turkish American lawyer, struggles to protect her, but must confront her own demons to gain her client’s trust. This moving character study pits East against West, tradition against progress, and ambition against conscience, in a drama whose lyrical dialogue evokes the surprising ambivalence of this wrenching battle. Mon-Fri 7:30 pm, Sat 3 &7:30 pm, thru Sat. $25. LAWLER
The L Magazine Theater Review The Beauty Inside by Catherine Filloux Reviewed by Douglas Singleton The Culture Project 45 Bleecker St.
Catherine Filloux’s The Beauty Inside is an emotionally honest tale set amongst the cultural traditions of rural Turkey. The story centers around a 14-year-old girl who, after being raped by a neighbor, is the victim of a botched “honor killing” at the hands of her family. This “social play” serves as a complex window into a culture far outside the Western world, yet hints at parallels to our own society and has implications for our relations with cultures harboring traditional Islamic ideals.
The Turkish-American lawyer assigned to counsel young Yalova is Harvard educated but emotionally torn between East and West. Playwright Filloux, a French-Algerian, suggests similarities between the devout Yalova’s oppressive Islamic family and her lawyer’s relationship with a progressive father bullying her in the name of cultural advancement.
It’s a relief to see such economical storytelling — a kind of anti-Homebody/Kabul where characters say what they mean and action occurs at a lively pace. Only five actors grace the stage though it seems a dozen do — the characters are rich and cleanly drawn. An exceptional A-men Rasheed portrays eight different roles with subtle aplomb.
Translated into Arabic and presented in Morocco as part of an acting institute (where much of its treatment of Muslim culture was developed), The Beauty Inside joins a string of exceptional pieces performed at the 45 Below Culture Project space, along with Anne Washburn’s The Internationalist and The Exonerated (in the main space). These are not run-of-the mill productions, but theater with purpose.
Press for Silence of God:
“Silence of God, directed by Jean Randich, is a brave attempt to come to grips with the Cambodian holocaust, something that has largely failed to penetrate the American consciousness…Silence of God is a brave play, with a compelling story to tell.” T.L. Ponick, The Washington Times, 2002
“Silence of God offers a glimpse of something strange and daring: a withered yet defiant Pol Pot, making his case at the end of his life.” Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post, 2002
“The single female author in the group, Catherine Filloux, is a returning festival playwright. Silence of God is a fictional account of Cambodia, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, imagined through the eyes of a journalist at the end of the Pol Pot leadership. The lighting and set initially establish a reverence and awe for the material of a history too rude to be imagined. The play is ultimately about prayer and death, with a momentary flare of love at its center…One of the lines in the play speaks about “putting the spirit down on paper” and much of the play’s symbolism revolves around this significant act. It is the way human beings make an indentation in the universe. Filloux does this.” Grace Cavalieri, The Morgan Messenger, 2002
“Over everything hangs the Cambodian tragedy and America’s complicity or inaction. That Pol Pot proves so banal in person accentuates the mystery of evil.” Christopher Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2002
Press for Mary and Myra:
"Mary and Myra needs no special treatment to be a major theater piece. The writing is so exact that it is hard to imagine actors failing when reading the script. The success is in a tight script with every line on target." Grace Cavalieri, The Morgan Messenger, 2000
"But playwright Catherine Filloux hangs plenty of flesh on the thin bones of the public record. To her credit, she renders Mary Todd a creature of contradiction, at once petulant and impossible, demanding and clear-eyed, unable to contain the sharp tongue that so offends her thin-skinned eldest child. Myra Bradwell is equally complex." Dolores Whiskeyman, Curtain Up, 2000
"Another American icon, Mary Todd Lincoln, is brought to roaring life in Miss Filloux’s Mary and Myra. A talky, well-made play about one woman damned by her reputation who is saved by a woman who was damned into obscurity." Jayne M. Blanchard, The Washington Times, 2000
Press for Photographs From S-21:
"Photographs From S-21, by French-American playwright Catherine Filloux subtly challenges the audience to question its own role as consumers, and curators, of tragedy." Flash Review Dispatch, 1-28: No Cutting In the Killing Fields and Other Climes with Asian Women Directors, By Maura Nguyen Donohue 2003
"One highlight is Catherine Filloux's Photographs From S-21. Two real-life photos...come to life in a surreal exposé of a nation's soul." East (Magazine), Singapore 2001
Translation from French: "Catherine Filloux’s very beautiful, and touching play, Photographs From S-21...The text is reduced to its essential truths and to a constant questioning: "why"? The great power of Catherine Filloux's text is to say so much with so few words, in so little time." Jacques Bekaert, GAVROCHE, The magazine of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, 2001
Press for Opera The Floating Box: A Story in Chinatown:
Selected as one of ten "favorite full-length opera recordings of the year" by Opera News, December 2005.
“Catherine Filloux’s libretto, based on more than forty hours of oral histories she and Hwang recorded in New York City’s Chinatown, is vivid and concisely poetic.” Opera News, Recordings Critic’s ChoiceSeptember 2005
July/August 2005 issue of the International Record Review (London magazine) Hwang The Floating Box. New (CD/New World Records)
Sandia Ang (soprano) Eva; Ryu-Kyung Kim (mezzo) Mother; Zheng Zhou (baritone) Father’s Ghost; Charlee Chiv, Scott Chan, Mona Chiang, Wai Ching Ho, Henry Yuk (vocalists) Student Voices; William Schimmel (accordion); Far East Side Band/Juan Carlos Rivas. New World Records 80626-2 (full price, two discs, 1 hour 42 minutes). English libretto included. Website www.newworldrecords.org. Producers Susan Cheng, Jason Kao Hwang. Engineers Jon Rosenberg, Leslie Lavalenet. Date October 30th, 2001.
Between them Jason Kao Hwang and Catherine Filloux have addressed the problem of combining Chinese and Western styles with astonishing success here. By placing their chamber opera The Floating Box in New York’s Chinatown and having as its protagonist Eva, the thoroughly American daughter of Chinese immigrants fascinated by the discovery that her dead father was a leading musician in China, they are not creating an artificial link between two very disparate cultures but mirroring something which is very real. Filloux recalls how she spent many hours recording oral histories from Chinese immigrants before embarking on her libretto and how a photograph in New York’s Museum of Chinese in the Americas gave her the idea of having at the opera’s core a box, placed on the family’s domestic altar, containing memorabilia of the family’s life in China.
This all gives wonderful scope for Hwang to combine Chinese traditional instruments with Western musical elements in a way which avoids that sense of pastiche or novelty which still undermines most attempts to coalesce the two. With such delicately toned instruments as the erhu and the pipa, the matter of balance is crucial if these are not to sacrifice their essentially intimate qualities, but Hwang has effectively solved this in two ways. First, he has produced a remarkably sparse score, these instruments heard either on their own or accompanying a solo voice (as in Eva’s magical response to hearing a recording of her father’s erhu-playing), and second, he has confined the western instruments to ones which in range and tone-quality offer no competition to the Chinese ones. Most inspired of all is his use of the accordion to provide the harmonic filling; and in this he is served by the admirable William Schimmel, whose subtlety is in itself one of the highlights of this recording.
For her part Filloux’s sensitivity to the subject-matter manages to sidestep any of the manifest dangers inherent in writing a libretto in which Chinese people have to sing in English. True, one of them does sing ‘liver’ (for ‘river’), but the powerful image Filloux re-creates of a struggling immigrant’s recollection of how he jumped from the ship is so compelling that it’s impossible to find this anything but deeply moving. Indeed her portrayal of Chinese immigrants attempting to establish themselves in a strange land while unable to divest themselves of their own culture is in itself both compelling and totally convincing. Her characterization of the ghost of Eva’s father makes far more sense to a Chinese psyche in which the honouring of ancestors’ spirits brings the dead far more alive than the rather wishy-wash ghosts of western cultures.
There are eight instrumentalists and eight singers involved, carefully and expertly balanced by Juan Carlos Rivas. Sandia Ang’s Eva finds exactly the right blend of bored American teacher and respectful Chinese daughter and sings throughout with impeccable poise and control. Ryu-Kyung Kim, as her mother, puzzled by this strange land, her daughter’s ‘foreign’ ways and with memories of her dead husband never far from the surface, has a beautifully pathetic quality, while a gloriously full-voiced Zheng Zhou copes magnificently with the duality of being a spirit appearing before Eva and a young man escaping from China as a ship’s cook in one flashback scene.
If Hwang’s name might be unfamiliar to readers of this journal that is largely because he has confined his musical activities to date to World Music and Jazz. And while The Floating Box is not his first foray into the field of formal composition, it is certainly a sufficiently accomplished work to warrant a wider international audience than his music has hitherto enjoyed. This is especially the case when it is recorded with such vivid clarity and spaciousness as here and performed by such a team of accomplished musicians.