Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE SOUND AND THE FURY (Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on May 23, 2015

in Theater-New York

HOW SWEET THIS SOUND

The standout theater company Elevator Repair Service (ERS), much acclaimed for their six-hour-plus show Gatz, among others, brings the first part of William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury to the Public Theater, performing it in its entirety, with spectacular results.

Randolf Curtis Rand, Lucy Taylor, Aaron Landsman, and Rosie Goldensohn in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

The section of the novel in question consists wholly of Benjamin “Benjy” Compson’s stream-of-consciousness recollections of life in the upper-middle-class Compson household, from his childhood to April 7, 1928. Castrated at 18 and now in his 30’s, Benjy has the mind of a preschooler. As such, his narrative is absent chronological continuity and isn’t encased in the scaffolding of time and place. Rather, his memories tumble out of him in a seamless current as soon as they appear in his mind, with emotional (as opposed to intellectual) hooks connecting them one to another.

Lucy Taylor, Susie Sokol, Tory Vazquez, and Randolf Curtis Rand in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

The two-hour-fifteen-minute ERS show, which shares the book’s title, captures this fluidity. On David Zinn’s spacious period set of the Compson home, which radiates an aura of profound personal nostalgia that is almost painful, and dressed in Colleen Werthmann’s soft period costumes, The Sound and the Fury begins with specific actors playing specific characters—members of the Compson family and their servants. But as the show progresses performers switch roles; time periods, characters’ ages, and locations morph into one another, creating a single fluid world of recollection.

Susie Sokol, Daphne Gaines, and Greig Sargeant in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court

The actors’ portrayals—full of delightful subtleties and nuance—are straightforward. Yet so connected are these performers—to the material, to their space, to one another, and to their own selves—and so inspired their purpose, that the spectacle they create transcends its individual elements. Their movements, personal gestures—as when Susie Sokol, playing Benjy, runs in place or puts her hands through her pant legs or falls into people’s laps like a rag doll—and especially the blocking, taken together have a mysterious, even mystical feel; it’s as if they are part of some supernatural ritual meant to summon from another dimension something incomprehensible, indefinable, yet essential.

Susie Sokol and Vin Knight in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

What ERS creates on the stage isn’t merely a well-acted narrative. It is a single organic being—picture an amoeba floating in ether—continuously transforming, transmuting. The being is consciousness. On one level it is the emotional consciousness of a sensitive man-child. Yet it is broader than that. Benjy’s innocence and his inability to intellectualize and compartmentalize, make his an immediate, unprejudiced experience of life, of pure, unconditional reality, which is what this captivating, perfectly theatrical production is all about.

Susie Sokol and company members in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

Created and performed by Rosie Goldenshon, Maggie Hoffman, Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, Aaron Landsman, Randolph Curtis Rand, Greig Sargeant, Kaneza Schaal, Pete Simpson, Ms. Sokol, Lucy Taylor, Tory Vazquez, and Ben Jalosa Williams.

Susie Sokol and Ben Jalosa Williams in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

photos by Paula Court

The Company of THE SOUND AND THE FURY, with text by William Faulkner, created and performed by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater. Photo by Paula Court.

The Sound and the Fury
Elevator Repair Service
The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place)
ends on June 27, 2015 EXTENDED to July 12, 2015
for tickets, call 212.539.8500 or www.elevator.org

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