The main theme of the 2016 International Festival of Arts & Ideas seemed to be the intersection of live performance and live music.
Instead, it's even livelier, landing on the intersection of art and reality.
At the festival, which began June 10 and wraps up Sunday, June 25, books and stories have been presented multi-dimensionally. Culture and gender differences have been openly explored. There have been frequent breakdowns of the fourth wall, mind-warping moments when skilled performers drop theatrical pretense and appear to communicate directly with the audience, only to revert back to scripted precision.
>>And sometimes truth-based theater can be gloriously strange. "Square Root of Three Sisters," a world-premiere collaboration between Russian theater director Dmitry Krymov, faculty members from the Yale School of Drama and Yale Theater Studies programs, student directors and designers, and actors who have just graduated from the School of Drama, opened Wednesday and is being presented at the Iseman Theater, 1164 Chapel Street in New Haven, through June 25. The play is an intense, ingenious deconstruction of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," though one of the main characters in it is the writer Trigorin, from a different Chekhov drama, "The Seagull." The production is an excellent example of contemporary theater artists attempting to come to terms with legacies, histories and texts that can either hamper or inspire their creative process. Led by the extraordinary young actor Aubie Merrylees as Trigorin, "Square Root of Three Sisters" veers chaotically from grand cultural cliches to intimate emotional upheavals.
>>What really drives "Square Root of Three Sisters" is how the acting ensembles interact as real people, using their own names and creating the performance organically, starting with the laying of the stage floor and the building of sets out of cardboard. Some awesome technical effects eventually occur, but this tornado of culture clashes, comic cut-ups, tear-strewn breakdowns and startling juxtaposition is guided by a whirlwind of human energy that carries the audience along, at the risk of everyone's minds exploding.
Like so many other shows at Arts & Ideas 2016, "Square Root of Three Sisters" has a live music element, where the Gershwin tune "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me" is played on toy piano, accordion, slide whistle, guitar, rainstick, tambourine and an electric drill.
Yes, music hath charms at Arts & Ideas 2016. But it can't come close to soothing the savagery of the fest's many uninhibited, confrontational, physically intense and insidiously personal performers.
Photo: "Square Root of Three Sisters," a cross-cultural collaboration among Russian and American theater artists, is one of several world
premieres at the 2016 International Festival of Arts & Ideas, continuing through June 25. (Lisa Keshisheva)