The lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi was a dramatic one. The youngster of a rich Italian service provider, he had a Twelfth-century playboy youth, went to battle and spent a yr in captivity. He had mystical visions, stole from his disapproving father to present to the church and devoted himself to a lifetime of poverty in imitation of Christ, founding a spiritual order. He noticed God in nature, thanking the solar, preaching to birds — setting an instance of equality and ecology adopted by many, together with the present Pope.
Very little of this drama registers in “God’s Fool,” the dance theater work about Francis that opened at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theater on Thursday. And regardless of being conceived and directed by Martha Clarke, the creator of many acclaimed dance theater items, “God’s Fool” accommodates little or no dance theater.
Instead, Francis (Patrick Andrews) and his followers largely wander round a gravel-strewn stage in friars’ robes, speaking about God and religion. When unsure, they sing.
That’s not an issue in itself, for the reason that singing, largely unaccompanied, is great. Arranged and directed by Arthur Solari, it helps set up the world from the beginning, because the cloaked forged enters intoning an Easter vigil. And the frequent retreat into track provides a way of a confused flock clinging to fellowship.
But the singing does contribute to a number of the present’s confusion of time and style. The choices stray from Francis’s time into an African American non secular and a few Gustav Mahler. When Francis breaks right into a Broadway-style duet of the American folks track “Wayfaring Stranger” with Clare, the feminine member of his flock, we’re undoubtedly not in Assisi anymore.
Andrews’s Francis is wholly American, a misplaced boy. In method, he wouldn’t appear misplaced in a David Mamet play or perhaps “Rent.” He does massive swings of temper, laughing hysterically, weeping when needed, mooning over nature like a Beat poet. The saint should have been disruptive, bewildering determine, however when Francis’s exasperated father calls him a bum and a brat, it feels all-too correct.
This central efficiency is at odds with Fanny Howe’s poetic textual content. The script is spare, alternating between soliloquies and scenes that aren’t naturalistic dialogue however exchanges of fragments. A consultant one goes like this:
Francis: Beat me Leo.
Leo: I can’t beat you Francis.
Luca: You ought to be part of the circus, Francis.
Francis: I ought to die.
The supply makes this and lots of comparable exchanges unintentionally comedian. The veteran efficiency artist John Kelly, taking part in a red-horned satan who accompanies Francis and his followers, contributes some intentional comedy and commedia dell’arte taste. But neither Kelly nor oversize animal heads (masks by Margie Jervis) nor between-scenes bits of motion (everybody blown by the wind or carrying Francis aloft) compensate sufficient to present the manufacturing the strangeness and marvel it wants.
And so, whereas a number of the dramatic incidents in Francis’s life are coated — abuse from his father, the preaching to birds, the looks of stigmata and, extra boldly, kissing Clare and the satan — nearly nothing comes throughout convincingly or illuminatingly.
What resonates, together with the singing, is one thing unsung however latent in Howe’s phrases: “revelations of a world just an inch from our senses, like perfumes you can’t see, perfumes you catch from a May tree.” What “God’s Fool” may need revealed.
Through July 2 at Ellen Stewart Theater; lamama.org.