Sunday, January 29, 2023

Review: Poor Claire by Echo Theater

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The saint’s play, also called the miracle play, was a popular form of religious drama in the European Middle Ages. Historical records are unclear, although we know the genre staged legends of saints and martyrs, often left room for supernatural phenomena, and sometimes condoned anti-Semitism.

There are not many examples in English here – Henry VIII banned miracle plays in the middle of the 16th century, and many of them were subsequently destroyed – but it’s safe to say that nothing from the hidden past sounds remotely like Chiara Atik’s “Poor Claire”. … »This is a play by a saint, crafted as an original comedy that millennials can believe.

Miracle of miracles, almost working.

Poor Claire, which won the world premiere with the Echo Theater Co. at the Atwater Village Theater, offers a fun modern take on the life of Saint Clara of Assisi. Staged by Alana Dietze with the same sophistication of the ensemble that she brought to the production of Wolves in her production of Echo, the play explores the sorrows and pleasures of disinterested virtue in a world sharply divided into the pure haves and the miserable have-nots.

The Italian village of Assisi is 1211, but the way of speaking is closer to Brentwood 2021. Close your eyes and you might think you are eavesdropping on high school students holding credit cards in a luxury open-air mall.

Jordan Hull, actor L Word: Generation Q, is as divine as Claire, a good-natured and wealthy 18-year-old with servants fussing about her hair and wardrobe (played by Kari Lee Cartwright and Martica De Cardenas). She is spoiled, but as a private school student who begins to think differently about the world after meeting a progressive social science teacher, she begins to question her own values.

Claire’s transformation is accelerated by another saint-to-be, Francis (the tart Michael Sturgis), who abandoned his rich past as part of his mission to eliminate economic inequality. Claire doesn’t understand why this son of a silk merchant is wandering around like a crazy beggar, but she understands what they have in common and suspects he has a lot to teach her.

The play tracks Claire’s nascent conscience as she shifts from screaming at the sight of a beggar (Tony DeCarlo) to handing out impractical clothes from wealthy people and gifting priceless jewelry to her maid. Soon, she is wearing a shirt and sleeping on the floor with rats. Why should she be comfortable with homeless families hiding in tents under a nearby bridge?

In the opening scene, we see Claire talking to her stylists about how the pilgrimage to the Holy Land “feels like so much work and money!” Later, when Frances reminds her that she lives in a palazzo downtown, she tells him, “This is not really a palazzo, this is more just a big house.”

She is used to downplaying her social status, taking advantage of it. Her radicalism begins with a growing awareness of her hypocrisy.

Neither Beatrice (sharp Donna Zadeh), Claire’s tender and daring sister, nor Ortolana (tart Ann Noble), her tenderly arrogant mother, can convince a young woman who has realized the fundamental cruelty of an unequal society.

Claire’s dramatic journey is unforgiving and therefore lacks the unknown. The play had to be delayed and staged without intermission. But in a somewhat charmingly insane anachronistic dialogue, it makes up for the plot, which seems like a fait accompli.

There are no villains in Poor Claire. Even the most superficial and self-protective rich characters have hearts. Claire’s interactions with the women in her life are playful and empathetic, even as she finds her ethics separating her from those clothespins. (The ostentatious outfits created by costume designer Diane K. Grabner are fascinatingly displayed.)

The play is also commendably devoid of heroes. Francis is portrayed as rude and effeminate, but his policies are more uncompromising than those of Bernie Sanders. Ideologically impatient, he may care more about kindness than kindness. Sturgis emphasizes piquancy.

Francis’s influence on Claire makes her increasingly isolated. I’d like the play to be more entertaining alternative forms of altruism, giving Claire a glimpse into a less lonely and selfless future. But the saints are not middle class. Sacrifice and suffering is their relationship.

Atik, realizing that modern good is a mystery, ends his game with prayer. Jumping into the present, Claire pleads with God for guidance: “Lord, give me strength so that I do not retreat to the other end of the subway car, pulling my scarf up to my nose, but rather jumped out and asked:“ Do you need help? ”

In the radiant humanity of Hull’s gentle, amusing image, true benevolence seems miraculously achievable.

‘Poor Claire’

Where: Echo Theater Co. at Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., LA

When: 20:00 Friday, Saturday, 16:00 Sunday, 20:00 Monday. Until November 29.

Tickets: $ 10 to $ 34.

Contact: (310) 307-3753 or

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