Words, words, words permeate a couple of unconventional theater options this weekend

Carte Blanche's 'Ophelia' at Fort Mason Center
Photo by Justin Benttinen

The scattered letters piled on the floor are alternately a lover, a tormentor, a terrible reminder, a set of mysterious directives, and a bed for restless dreaming for Ophelia — or rather, one of her three incarnations — as French company Carte Blanche presents its roaming, site-specific riff on Shakespeare’s sad heroine, with inspiration drawn from Arthur Rimbaud’s famous elegy.
But despite all those missives from a certain gloomy prince, the piece makes much use of silence too, as the audience mills around the Firehouse at Fort Mason Center, watching the agitated actions of three young heroines in various rooms before being led outside for a journey to other environs.

The dramatic tone in Ophelia tends toward the sentimental but the environmental staging has its charms, as do certain aspects of the mise-en-scène, which makes use of a giant warehouse space on the pier and at one point includes an enormous video backdrop enveloping the three dancer-performers. A little bit of Sleep No More, a little bit of Cirque du Soleil, and a little bit its own bilingual, francophone thing, Ophelia is a limited but curious journey of discovery.

Elsewhere around town: the great Sheffield-based English experimental theater company Forced Entertainment has only been to San Francisco once before, back in the 1990s, which (there’s no getting around it) just sucks. But FE is coming to a computer screen near you this weekend, live, starting at 3:59 this afternoon local time, for a 24-hour version of its durational performance Quizoola!, a collectively devised piece that relies on thousands of pre-written questions (you can submit your own too) in free-play between audience and performers across an evolving scenario that will only get weirder over the course of the earth’s slow full turn.

Tune in! Play at home! This may be the closest we get to having Forced Entertainment come back to the Bay Area. Link up here.

Side note: A few months ago in London, I had the chance to interview Tim Etchells, Forced Entertainment’s artistic director (and chief producer of questions for Quizoola!), about the group and its approach to the sometimes-sinister power of narrative—including the ongoing rehabilitation of the awful neoliberal hatchet-woman Margaret Thatcher. That interview can be found here.


Sat/13-Sun/14, 8:30pm, $22

Fort Mason Center

Marina at Laguna, SF


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