Cabaret exploits convulsive beauty

Located in the basement of a building nestled between the Af-Am House and Pierson College, the Yale Cabaret is one of the most unique venues on campus. Audience members indulge in elegant meals and cocktails as they watch students from the School of Drama perform in experimental productions. This weekend, the Cabaret’s fall season culminates with a riveting production of Sarah Kane’s “Crave.”

Jeff Rogers, artistic director of the Yale Cabaret, described the theater as a particularly unique performance space, saying “The venue is something we come back to all the time. One of the most important parts of the Cabaret is walking down the steps to the theater. It gives it that sort of sacrosanct, speakeasy, underground feeling which is so important to the Cabaret. This is the feeling that allows us to do whatever we want — we can show classical work and new stuff side by side.”

The Cabaret gives students at the School of Drama the opportunity to work outside their concentrations. Actors are able to direct, and costume designers are given the chance to act or stage manage. Indeed, the director of “Crave,” Burke Brown DRA ’07, is a lighting design student.

Rogers described “Crave” — a play with no plot, no set and four characters identified only by single letters — as the perfect way to end the season.

“As a piece, it’s kind of like a primal scream you hear form far off somewhere,” he said. “It starts slowly and keeps people at a distance, but the more the world reveals itself to you the more dark and frightening it becomes, the more it starts to look like the world we live in. It looks a lot like the world we live in, in the scariest way possible.”

“Crave” is gritty, graphic and provoking. It is about sex, desire, fear and death. The words of tortured playwright Sarah Kane (who tragically took her own life in the late 90s) are direct and emotionally jarring, revealing her own pain and disillusionment. And these words are well spoken by actors Melissa Stern, Nikki Berger DRA ’08, Drew Lichtenberg DRA ’08 and Alex Major DRA ’08 who play the show’s four characters. At times, the characters seem to interact with one another, at others they speak directly to the audience or to an imagined lover from their pasts. It remains unclear whether each of the characters represents a single person rather than some sort of abstract psychological element or concept.

For all the play’s particular ambiguities, Rogers explained it remains part of a larger artistic project. “We treat the Cabaret like one big canvas, the 20 or so plays we do each season like brush strokes on one canvas,” Rogers said. “I want an audience that can look at 20 plays as a work of art and see how they each fit together to make some sort of cultural statement.”

Rogers said the Cabaret takes great pride being able to produce new work. Additionally, he commented on the integrity of the work this semester — whether a comedy or tragedy, Rogers said this season’s body of work took itself seriously.

As for next season, Rogers explained that there tend to be more plays produced during the fall semester and more movement and music pieces in the spring.

“I think next semester we’ll see an explosion of different stuff,” he said. “This semester they were all plays, ostensibly. I think next semester we’ll find more dance pieces, musicals and operas.”

Whether these productions involve almost oppressively strong, moody lighting (compounded by shimmering, reflective backdrops) like “Crave” or innovative ways of working around the fact that the stage doubles as the seating area for a restaurant, those involved with the Cabaret are sure to continue finding inspiration in their intimate space to transform their theater.

Crave

Yale Cabaret

Fri. and Sat. 8:30 and 11 p.m. Doors open for dinner and drinks at 7 and 10 p.m

Comments

  • davidrudenstine

    I have volunteered to write a short essay for our 50ieth reunion class-book on the impact of the American Civil Rights Movement and African Independence on Yale during my undergraduate days (1959-63). I am wondering if the Yale Daily News has an online archive for those years that I can access? thanks and best wishes, David Rudenstine