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BEST INDEPENDENT THEATER Minneapolis 2001 - 15 Head Productions

15 Head productions can sometimes be cold: Most of the performers in the company's staging of The Insatiate Countess wore their faces frozen in masklike expressions and moved with near-clinical calculation. So this is not theater oriented toward audiences looking for the experience that Aristotle, bless his critical soul, labeled catharsis: the process of seeing emotions acted out onstage, ridding the spectator of these passions. Likewise, 15 Head does not seem to bother itself with rich characterization. Instead, the company's performers often seem dreamlike and speak their dialogue in an unforced, deadpan manner. 15 Head defy logical staging, preferring an abstraction of motion that is often more painterly than theatrical. This can be challenging for the unprepared. Those who attended a recent production of Coco expecting a lucid biography of fashion designer Coco Chanel were instead treated to a one-woman show in which the text was apparently created by cutting up passages from Chanel biographies, along with clips from fashion magazines of the Forties, and quotes from Chanel herself, placing these scraps into a hat, and then pulling them out at random. Oh, but there is art to it--great art, which revealed itself in the theater's painstaking attention to detail, their rigorously intellectual approach to their subjects, and the sheer beauty often evident in their productions. When something this brainy and skilled frustrates, it does so with a purpose: It is the frustration of the unexpected, and that feeling fast gives way to delight.

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