Dimitri Papaioannou’s “The Great Tamer” was a surreal experience, highlighting the magical possibilities of stagecraft. The show was completely sold out and it was incredible to see Royce Hall totally filled with people. As the audience entered the theater there was already a man waiting on stage staring out at the audience with one foot in front of the other. As the show begins, he struggles to walk forward, yanking his feet off the ground to reveal roots growing from the bottom of his shoes into the stage. He pitches forward onto his hands and walks on them across the stage to exit. Another man is lying on the stage which has been set up like as a hill covered in thin wood slats. The man is naked and is covered by another performer with a plastic sheet. A different man lifts a wooden slat and lets it fall, blowing the sheet off the man.
Throughout the piece, Papaioannou employs a smart and stunning array of tricks to transform the space- an astronaut digs a naked man out of the floor, the dancers hide parts of themselves and join together to create a puzzle piece body, hundreds of gold darts are thrown into the air onto the wooden slats and create a field of wheat. Many historical works of art are recreated by the dancers distorting their bodies and props: the Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, and a distorted rendition of Strauss’ Blue Danube is the only score that plays throughout the show. I got the impression that I had stumbled upon the Garden of Earthly Delights on a mellow day. The show contained a lot of nudity, which was honestly refreshing and was totally normal by the end. The performance also had its humorous moments, self-aware of the ridiculousness of the thematic material and the piece itself.
It seemed that the director is re-staging moments throughout human history in order to emphasize the how we’ve learned to understand the world around us. The performers’ inquisitive effect in regards to each other and the various historical tableaus pointed towards a state of discovering. This in addition to the tranquil pace and incredible technical production makes it clear that this examination of humanity is not meant to provide answers, but to spark genuine interest in the absurdity and sublimity of humankind.
-Delilah Gamson Levy