The traumas of aging and Alzheimer’s disease have been addressed in various mediums, but rarely with as much humor, accessibility and imagination as in “André & Dorine,” which arrives at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in mesmerizing condition.
Spain’s celebrated Kulunka Teatro troupe previously performed this wordless mask-theater study of an elderly couple faced with Alzheimer’s at LATC in 2012, and its return is a must-see proposition.
By focusing the narrative on the basic physicality of behavior and response, with recurring details defining specifics of character and situation, this seamless, brilliantly performed piece achieves a witty eloquence and touching humanity that belies its lack of verbal text through pure creative theatricality.
For instance, its use of sound, from the first strains of composer Yayo Cáceres’ score, followed by rapid-fire typing. Designer Carlos Samaniego’s lights reveal André at the center stage desk, his persona implied by Garbiñe Insausti’s remarkable life-sized mask. The bedroom door of Laura Gómez’s set opens, and enter Dorine, who proceeds to the cello downstage right. A tickling back-and-forth ensues.
One is instantly struck by the disciplined physicality and imposing degree of expression on non-verbal display. With the subsequent advent of their grown son, who notes that Mom has mis-buttoned her housedress (designed by Ikerne Giménez), then his and Dorine’s trip to the doctor, the die is cast.
Under Iñaki Rikarti’s direction, what follows is a deceptively simple parable of love, loss and remembrance. André's frustration leads him to recall their courtship and marriage, depicted onstage by their younger selves, while Dorine gradually grows more ephemeral and unpredictable.
The scenario, created by Rikarte, Insausti, José Dault, Rolando San Martin and Edu Cárcamo, combines seemingly random motifs with behavioral specifics that transcend language and location, ending on a deeply moving final coda.
Ultimately, this is the art that conceals art, its various characters so differentiated that it’s stunning to realize all those entities have been played by Dault, Insausti and Cárcamo.
Hilarious, insightful and cauterizing, not to mention universal, “André & Dorine” offers a potent object lesson to every artist and theater professional out there. It’s a quietly unforgettable achievement. Don’t miss it.
“André & Dorine,” Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 7. $10-$34.99. (866) 811-4111 or www.thelatc.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.