Fearless Dutch troupe Kassys visits the Festival of Firsts. 

click to enlarge Watch it: Kassys performs Liga.
  • Watch it: Kassys performs Liga.

A YouTube inquiry into the work of Dutch theater company Kassys reveals some intriguing things. You'll learn that extravagant costuming and elaborate set design are not at the forefront of the company's artistic vision. You'll then realize that its commitment to truth in performance, utilization of the art of theater to explore man's relationships with self and others, and fearlessness in communication with each other and the audience renders lavish technical values extraneous. And in the process, you'll discover that the word "barbecue" is the same in both English and Dutch.

Kassys will present the U.S. premiere of its company-created performance Liga Oct. 16-18 at the New Hazlett Theater as part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts. (It's also the company's first time in Pittsburgh.) From the outset, the production demonstrates the troupe's dedication to subverting conventional theatrical form, particularly the glossy kind found on most American stages. Here it begins at the end: curtain call, applause, congratulatory handshakes and hugs among the actors.

From there, we see, in flashback, the process of developing the play for which the cast has just bowed. But the audience is not only a witness, it is a conspirator, and it's up to each individual watching to determine what exactly their level of engagement is, how they are complicit, and where their involvement ceases. Kassys scrutinizes the desire to be seen, heard and listened to. The troupe analyzes the need for attention -- not only from the perspective of the performer before an audience, but from that of every person.

This is done simply. There is nothing outrageously spectacular here, and all is somewhat scruffy, coarse and rough around the edges. The exploration takes place both onstage and on film, and is understated and straightforward. The shiny, polished acting style of most contemporary theater, technically perfect and gleaming like a poisoned apple, is nowhere to be found, and the enlistment of the audience is executed without the self-aware, metaphorical wink we've become accustomed to.

As entertaining as Liga promises to be, the entertainment brings with it challenge, and our confrontation of our own desires to please as we see the actors laying theirs bare.


Kassys presents Liga New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20. 412-456-6666 or www.pifof.org



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