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The stages of hell - Brooklyn Paper

The stages of hell

Offended: Actor Arla Berman shows a flash of anger in the atmospheric production of Dante’s “Inferno” at the Brick Theater, as a part of its sound-focused series of plays.
Photo by Alex Lau

It’s hell-month in Williamsburg.

An upcoming reworking of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” will rely on music and video to tell the pious poet’s fiery tale. The bare-bones adaptation, which is presented as part of Sound Scape, the Brick Theater’s June-long festival featuring the often overlooked work of theatrical sound designers, will use masks and puppetry along with lighting and sound effects in an attempt to share the story with 21st century Brooklyn — not an un-sinful city by any means.

“I think the piece is still highly relevant today,” said director Michael Feld. “We keep running into it in different ways — it says a lot about where we are as a society and as human beings.”

Feld hopes that the deployment of spare multimedia elements — instead of an elaborate visual presentation — will give the production an unexpected power.

“It’s just us — we’re not even using a set,” he said. “It’s simply movement, video, and sound. Sound, especially, can really burrow into the spirit of Dante’s text, I think.”

The ensemble hopes, ultimately, to explore the farthest reaches of humanity’s potential in the world.

“By showing the audience the worst and darkest parts of themselves, and of all of us, we can also hint at the best,” he said.

And Alighieri’s Italian hell-tour isn’t the only old favorite getting an overhaul at the Brick’s festival.

In “Lighthouse Tryptych,” directors Stephanie Lane and Jamie Watkins will stage a choreographed adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s signature work, “To the Lighthouse.” Scored by composer Mark Van Hare, the performance will mine each of the modernist classic’s three main sections for thematic and emotional content.

“It’s such an interior narrative,” said Lane, a Barnard grad who conceived an early version of the show after falling in love with the novel’s famous dinner-table scene. “Mark’s score evokes so much of the feeling that Woolf conveys with words. She communicates things I’ve always known to be true, but couldn’t have articulated so well. I hope we can spark that same recognition in our audiences.”

Another literary undertaking, “The Beckett Cycle,” will present experimental workshop presentations of several of Samuel Beckett’s lesser-known, and seldom-produced, pieces for radio and television. Producer Andy Sowers, who will also direct the allegorical radio play “Words and Music,” is excited to show a different side of the revered playwright.

“His more famous work is great and beautiful, of course,” he said. “But it’s just so often done. There’s something magical about taking such a well-known artist, but presenting work that might be unfamiliar.”

Another departure from the standard Beckett fare will be the relative minimalism of the set design.

“You usually can’t do Beckett without a huge technical setup,” said Sowers. “So we’re trying to see if we can do it with almost no money at all. And some of the material is for TV, so we’re exploring things like: how do you achieve a ‘close-up’ onstage?”

The result, Sowers hopes, will be clear to the audiences.

“It’s all transparent,” he said. “They’ll see us working it out, right up onstage.”

Sound Scape at the Brick Theater [579 Metropolitan Ave. at Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 285–3863, www.bricktheater.com]. June 7–19.

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