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Avidon Garners Good Reviews at Humana Festival

Avidon Garners Good Reviews at Humana Festival

: Rebecca Hart in "O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you"; courtesy Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Alan Simons.

Mallery Avidon’s (TH ‘03) new play O Guru Guru Guru opened to good reviews at the Humana Festival, the premier venue for new theater in America.

 

We expect a lot of critics, the men and women who guide the public to what is new and good in contemporary theater. A non-traditional play such as Cornish grad Mallery Avidon’s O Guru Guru Guru or why I don’t want to go to yoga class with you sets a high bar for their perspicacity, open-mindedness and vision. They also know that the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Loisville has for years carried the prestige of being the bellweather for the direction of American drama, and they must come to the plays it produces with their A-game. Reading their revues, it’s clear they were challenged by Avidon’s work, but by-and-large they took the journey it offered and found its great value. They also recognized an up-and-coming playwright.

Lou Harry of IBJ.com was drawn to the play’s structure. “By defining its own rhythm, taking its time,” he writes, “the play undermines expectations of audience participation, and finding a fitting and proper conclusion that neither makes too much or too little of the protagonists’ situation, the ideally cast O Guru Guru Guru sparkles in surprising ways.”

Elizabeth Kramer of The Courier-Journal seemed to have more trouble adjusting, but recognized the direction of the playwright in ‘Oh Guru, Guru, Guru’ an emotional, onstage pilgrimage. “Avidon makes some courageous explorations in juggling several worlds that are part of our current culture,” writes Kramer. “What idols can we turn to when we feel unsure about our lives? Where is truth in the world when Hollywood and a lot of so-called spiritual leaders deal in deceptions and fantasies?”

New York Times critic Charles Isherwood likewise seemed to have questions about Avidon’s methods, but found that in the end, it delivered. “This last third has a charming unexpectedness that helps to make up for the lack of real drama that came before,” he writes. “There’s cheeky fun in Ms. Avidon’s suggestion that a glossy movie star could be as helpful a spiritual guide as the revered leaders of popular movements.”

Lila Keane of WFPL News allowed herself to be drawn into the performance. Her title Immerse Yourself in ‘O Guru Guru Guru’ says it all. “Avidon mines those experiences in her engaging autobiographical play, O Guru Guru Guru or why I don’t want to go to yoga class with you, an attempt to reconcile several complicated, competing emotions about contentment, identity and spirituality,” Keane writes in her piece. “It’s easy to get caught up in the performance (and performance it is, scripted and tightly-controlled, yet giving off a slightly desperate whiff of “join us!” at the same time) or your own participation, depending, but Hart’s silent performance, sitting among the volunteers on stage,  stayed true to the character throughout the act. As Lila watches the rituals she once loved, her face registers a range of emotions, from placid recognition to nostalgia, discomfort and pain.”

Chris Arnott of the Engine 31 critics’ consortium also was taken with the work. “O Guru Guru Guru is both calming and full of surprises,” he writes. “As a script, O Guru Guru Guru manages to be cynical and hopeful at the same time. In it, hopes are dashed but then reborn, with inspiration from increasingly unusual avenues. Shows about disillusionment are common at Humana. Seldom are they so graceful, flexible and freeing.”

The 2013 Humana Festival of New American Plays ended on April 7.


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