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Jan Versweyveld (#110 of 2)

Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

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Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America
Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

Theater director Ivo van Hove has made a habit of breaching borders. Born in Belgium, he currently runs the internationally renowned Toneelgroep Amsterdam in the Netherlands and also brings his work to New York with welcome regularity. More significantly, van Hove makes an art of erasing the barrier not only between actor and audience, but also between one scene and another.

During the presidential 2012 election, his epochal production Roman Tragedies, which played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, ran for nearly six hours without any breaks. Van Hove edited Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Anthony and Cleopatra to focus both the text and the theatrical experience on the relationship between politicians and the public. Audiences were encouraged to come and go where and when they pleased—even up onto the stage. The production became an exhilarating and indelible exercise in democracy, mounted by one of the reigning auteurs in global theater.

The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

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The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

The New York Theatre Workshop

The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of provocateur Ivo van Hove’s slick remounting of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes is that it really isn’t that shocking. The man who allowed Hedda Gabler to be humiliated by a flood of tomato juice and employed a hot dog and Hershey’s syrup to illuminate The Misanthrope turns almost cuddly in comparison this time around. Sure, a woman gets dramatically socked in the gut three times in a row and another dry humps a wall, but the closest it gets to beverages and condiments is a mimed sip of good ’ol Southern java. This would seem to be a criticism, and even though this critic truly craved some of van Hove’s signature eyebrow-raisers (it’s a melodrama, guy!), it’s quickly discerned that Hellman’s stinging indictment of a plantation-owning family’s greed (”[The] people who raped the Earth, and those who stood around and watched them do it”) really needs no trickery at all to remain a grabber.