During my tenure as artistic director I have had the privilege of bringing some of the most notable directors now working on the world stage to the Goodman, including Peter Sellars, JoAnne Akalaitis, Ivo van Hove, Elizabeth LeCompte, Flora Lauten (fromthe esteemed Cuban company Teatro Buendía) and our own Mary Zimmerman. Although vastly different in style and approach, these directors share a passion for exploring new ways of theatrical storytelling, an uncompromising singularity of vision and a radical (and often controversial) way of reimagining classical texts. To this group I am extremely proud to add Calixto Bieito, a Barcelona-based director whose soaring, radical interpretations of everything from classic operas to Shakespeare have astonished, inflamed and challenged audiences throughout Europe and South America.
My first experience with Calixto’s work came in 2004, with his sexually charged interpretation of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio in Berlin. I found that production to be both fascinating and disturbing; Calixto’s investigation of the dark subtext that lay beneath the “classical” exterior of the piece displayed a courage and sophistication that was, to me, profound and unsettling. Soon after the performance I met with him, and was immediately impressed by his warmth, intelligence and infectious passion for his work. When we began to discuss possible projects that might be of interest to him, he revealed his love for the works of one of my favorite writers, Tennessee Williams. Though our conversation began with a discussion of Williams’ better-known works, in talking to Calixto it occurred to me that his bold artistry might be better used to explore one of Williams’ less often performed plays, Camino Real. First produced in 1953, Camino remains one of the author’s most poetic works, and one of his most ambitious: it is an impressionistic musing on the nature of love, loss, humanity and the encroachment of time, peopled largely by iconic figures of romance who are coming to terms with their own mortality. Because of its non-realistic milieu and aching lyricism, I felt that this seldom-produced work, long considered one of Williams’ most personal, would inspire Calixto to do what he does best: to create a world in which the playwright’s images and ideas could take flight and soar. After reading the play, Calixto agreed, and the result is a full-bodied, extraordinarily theatrical piece which fuses Williams’ poetry, music and evocative imagery to create, in Williams’ words, “the continually dissolving and transforming images of a dream.”
Although Camino Real is notably based less in realism than its author’s more familiar works,it shares with those plays a highly charged blend of disparate elements: beauty and brutality; moments of romance punctuated by shocking dissolution. As interpreted by one of today’s most courageous and uncompromising directors, I guarantee that its vivid images and haunting, sometimes squalid beauty will live with you for a long, long time.