Serpent striving for wholeness

  • 2000-01-27
  • By Vineta Lagzdina
"Every night I sat at my typewriter without any knowledge what will follow next, Mircea Eliade wrote about his novel, "The Serpent."

Almost a century later, Latvian theater director Viesturs Kairiss responds to Eliade, "I want to create one whole world. I'm striving for wholeness . . . where the worst and the best performances are of equal importance - because it is one undivided world I want to create within the territory of theater. When creating a performance, what you have to try to do is to repeat this singular act - the creation of the world."

It was opening night Jan. 22 at the New Riga Theater, and all Latvia's theater buffs, as well as some European theater festival representatives, were there to see its latest production, "Serpent/Cuska," a dramatic adaptation of Romanian born Eliade's novel "The Serpent."

It is the story of a cheerful and mixed company on pilgrimage to a cloister, then being joined by an unknown young man who takes them to task in a game where rules have no sense, but which reveal the previously hidden passions and instincts of the characters.

The set is a visually stunning jungle installation with a magic floor that carries the actors across time zones, actually from dusk to dawn, in an intriguing parade of small adventures. The experiences are all the more surreal, given live sound and rhythm as well as a wonderful sound track by Arturs Maskats. Character definition by visual cue, gesture and relationship is equal to, if not more important, than the text.

It is the biggest theater event to date in Latvia, because Serpent/Cuska is the first major drama produced in partnership with European theaters. Co-producers include Festival d'Avignon of France, Theorem, Hebbel Theater of Berlin, La Filature of France, as well as the French Embassy and Cultural Capital Foundation in Riga. Nongovernmental organization The New Theater Institute of Latvia with professional repertory New Riga Theater are the producers.

A major drawback is the theater itself. It is airless, and the company lack the resources for renovation, but do go and judge whether this ambitious Kaimiss' production is ready for the international stage. Yes, but . . .

M. Eliade's "Serpent/Cuska" can be seen at the New Riga Theater at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 4,5,10 and 18, before going on tour. For bookings, telephone 728 0765.