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Review: 'The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August G.'

April 26, 2012|By David C. Nichols
  • The dance marathon in "The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August G."
The dance marathon in "The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August… (Ed Krieger )

This post has been corrected. See note below.

Noble social intent accompanies “The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August G.” at Casa 0101. In its American premiere, Armand Gatti’s surreal fantasia about revolution and labor unrest isn’t the last word in polemic, but it does its best to be.

First produced in France in 1962, “August G.” is based on Gatti’s father, a World War I veteran and the titular street sweeper. The raw, starkly episodic script incorporates agit-prop, stream of consciousness, elegy and satire as it follows August G. at various times in his life, often simultaneously.  

The centrifuge is August at age 46 (the vivid Serafín Falcón), brought into a prison infirmary after sustaining a head trauma during a police crackdown on striking workers. In a self-circling trajectory that suggests Brecht and Pirandello refereed by Maria Irene Fornes, August G. carries on back-and-forth with his selves (Isaiah Rojas, alternating with Nahum Ponce, Jaime Zevallos, Mario Martinez and Alistair Hunter), accentuated by first-, second- and third-person interjections from key figures, sometimes contradictory.

Director Emmanuel Deleage finds some poetry in his English translation, and his staging has some smart notions, such as the onstage band made up of riot cops, or the every-period moves (choreographed by Lindsey Stakoe) in the dance marathon that ultimately proves critical. His 31-member cast is variable in polish but uniformly invested. Patrick Riviere’s suave boss, Oscar T. Basulto’s frenetic opposite number, Lena-Marie’s dulcet-voiced neighborhood caregiver, and Verona Masongsong and Claudia Durán as August’s very different amours are among the standouts.

But arid patches crop up in the round-robin proceedings, which begin to wear by Act 2. Too many scenes have a half-formed abruptness, and the designs are more utilitarian than evocative, though Larry Costales’ videos and Carlos Brown’s costumes carry some heft. Ultimately, “August G.” is a worthy effort, but its deepest possibilities are still being unearthed.

[For the record, May 2: An earlier version of this review misspelled the name of actor Alistair Hunter.]

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“The Imaginary Life of the Street Sweeper, August G.,” Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 13. $20. (323) 263-7684 or www.casa0101.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.


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