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Theater Review: <i>The Anderson Project</i> at Merriam Theater

The Anderson Project: A Modern Fairy Tale is at the Merriam Theater on June 11, 12, and 13.
The Anderson Project: A Modern Fairy Tale is at the Merriam Theater on June 11, 12, and 13.

Lesley Valdes, WRTI's critic-at-large, reviews the opening-night performance of Robert Lepage's The Anderson Project: A Modern Fairy Tale, now at the Merriam Theater. Featuring Yves Jacques as the soul performer, the play is for mature audiences only. Two more performances are scheduled for June 12th and June 13th.

Theater Review: The Anderson Project at Merriam Theater

Critic at Large, WRTI-FM

The Anderson Project
Merriam Theater at the University of the Arts
June 12th and 13th @ 8pm
Written and directed by Robert Lepage
Performed by Yves Jacques

Run, don't walk, to The Anderson Project at the Merriam Theater. Just don't take the children. Robert Lepage, one of the more brilliant multi-media minds has written and directed an homage to Hans Christian Anderson that explores the darker sides of love and creativity. Yves Jacques performs every role in The Anderson Project. To say this actor is a virtuoso, a tour de force, is understatement. You've seen the Canadian (who now lives in Paris) in wonderful films like The Barbarian Invasions by Denys Arcand and others by Claude Miller. Here, Jacques plays a Canadian, a Parisian, and silent roles, and in each role he is mesmerizing. He switches characters with the grace of an illusionist. He has a brilliant wig master in Richard Hansen.

There is little sense in explaining the conceit of The Anderson Project: once inside the Merriam, it will all come plain. A lovesick Canadian hoping to validate his career is commissioned to write a children's libretto on an Anderson fairy tale for the Opera Garnier. In Paris, he meets up with others, including a dishonest but extremely witty opera administrator - all played by Jacques - and some very clever staging. The marvel of this production is its way-beyond high-tech projections; the superbly integrated sound and lights. You blink, and Jacques is gone as one character and surfacing as another. It is frightening, he and they, are that good. Jacques's accents and reams of dialogue are astonishing. Stories by Anderson interlock with anecdotes about the author whose life involved a lot of travel and a lot of loneliness. Contemporary love stories intersect. How Lepage keeps all these going is harder to tell than see. To blow our minds, there is spectacular stage beauty: one scene involving Jenny Lind, another a dryad come to life. Robert Lepage's The Anderson Project, presented by the Kimmel Center at the Merriam Theater, is one of the finest flights of imagination presented in Philadelphia in many seasons. It bodes well for the Met's new "Ring Cycle" in 2010. No one understands multi-media like Lepage.

More About The Anderson Project and Ticket Info