By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
More than just a daring short play with a flying trapeze, Barbette also seriously addresses the issue of androgyny, notably in the breakup scene between Cocteau and Vander/Barbette. When the wig and makeup come off, the illusion is broken and no longer is his lover what Cocteau calls "the alabaster sculpture come to life." He's simply the small, thin Vander, which infuriates the poet, who violently declares that he only can love the "she" side. (Yes, it is a bit like Hedwig and the angry French.)
Leaving Paris, Barbette would spend the rest of his life suspended between male and female, like William Blake's "eternal androgyne." Injuries would render him earthbound. "We're all falling," he says in the play. "Man is humbled by gravity."
Yes, but inspired by art. And the talents of many artists--the writers (Lengfelder also directed), actors, designers and technicians--have come together to make Barbette a lofty and inspiring piece of theater.