In the busy, declamatory plays of Simon Stephens, the most interesting characters explosively stake their claims on a loveless, transactional playing field with little regard to the consequences of their actions. Vulnerability is sneered at—often by the most vulnerable themselves—or dismissed as a form of mental illness.
In CARMEN DISRUPTION (now at City Garage, directed by Frédérique Michel), Stephens kicks the major characters from Bizet’s opus to the curb of a large, unnamed European city. Micaela is bereft at the loss of her 62-year-old boyfriend, the taxi driving Don Jose. Escamillo has gone from bulls to bull markets as a high-stakes trader, and Carmen is a male prostitute who survives a rape but whose days may be numbered.
The players are alone in their traumas—the text is Bizet as a Gary Indiana monologue. With scant acknowledgement, they occasionally cross paths in bars and on bridges. They are lost and they’re definitely screwed, but with drollery intact, they’re not quite doomed:
“I take out a Viagra and swallow it right in front of him. There’s a fake log fire in the corner of the room.” — Carmen.
Across town—in the title role of the L.A. Opera production of CARMEN at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion—Ana María Martínez perfectly insinuates herself on a large, crowded stage and takes command as the only adult in the room. While the men bluster and parade, playing soldier and tormenting livestock, Carmen never abandons her policy of generosity and love con gusto. She knows her value, and doesn’t waste time nursing fragile martinet egos back to health. Naturally, her independent attitude must be punished.
In addition to Martínez, Liv Redpath as Frasquita and Kelley O’Connor as Mécèdes are particular stand outs. James Conlon conducts.
CARMEN DISRUPTION, through October 15.
CITY GARAGE, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica.
CARMEN—L.A. OPERA, September 17, 20, 23, 28, and October 1.
DOROTHY CHANDLER PAVILION, Music Center, downtown Los Angeles.
Top: Ana María Martínez (on table) in Carmen, L.A Opera 2017. Photograph by Ken Howard.
Bottom: Lindsay Plake, Kimshelley Lessard, Anthony Sannazzaro and David E. Frank in Carmen Disruption at City Garage, 2017.