Theater review: ‘In the Solitude of Cotton Fields’ at REDCAT


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Perhaps the unique dilemma of the human species is its perpetual clash between the desire to stand out and need to blend in, to connect despite innate isolation. That conflict brilliantly underscores ‘In the Solitude of Cotton Fields,’ which ends its limited REDCAT engagement on Sunday. This austere, arresting adaptation of Bernard-Marie Koltès’ enigmatic 1986 French drama about the eternal dance of negotiation packs a haunting visceral wallop.

Presented by Poland’s Stefan Zeromski Theatre under the direction of Radosław Rychcik, ‘Solitude’ suggests a neo-punk concert taken hostage by a poetry jam. Two men in black-suit chic gyrate and posture in front of a rocking techno band upstage. Taking turns at the downstage mikes, their archetypal personas -- intense faux-humble dealer, detached pseudo-haughty client -- gradually emerge. Before the elusive, erotic and dangerous exchange completes, they have virtually merged, only to revert to type by the synoptic fadeout.


It’s an intellectually daunting text, tartly translated into Polish by Marian Mahor (with English supertitles by Dorota Sobstel). That makes the effects that director Rychcik and designer Marta Stoces achieve through minimalist means doubly remarkable, with rigorous spatial boundaries, subliminal light flashes and judicious dry ice.

Polish cult band Natural Born Chillers is invaluable at driving the fluctuating tone, from urban electronica droning to rock wails to ‘Autumn Leaves.’ And every performance artist in town should race to catch actors Wojciech Niemczyk (the dealer) and Tomasz Nosinski (the client), whose seamlessly synchronized performances defy superlatives. Long before the climactic video mélange, they have captured us with their range and commitment, which fuels this transfixing psychodrama.

-- David C. Nichols

‘In the Solitude of Cotton Fields.’ REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends Sunday. In Polish with English subtitles. $20-$25 (213) 237-2800. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.