Why Camino Real?

Why Camino Real?

Posted by: Robert Falls, Artistic Director at 03/05/2012 04:52 PM

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.


  • Posted by: Michele Taylor at 03/07/2012 06:31 PM
    I went to see Camino Real this past weekend....it was by far the worst play I have ever seen. I actually did not clap at the end of the play. if I was not sitting in the middle of a row, I would have gotten up and left. I wonder why I could not find ANY reviews on the interneet about this play --- I find it hard to believe no one reviewed it. This was my first play at Goodman...I hope the next one is better
  • Posted by: Claudia Kendzior at 03/07/2012 11:56 PM
    If there would have been an intermission during Camino Real, I would have gladly left the theater. Not only did this play not make any sense, its "vivid images" and "haunting...squalid beauty" left me totally disgusted. I do not attend theater to be shocked-I attend to learn, to experience, to think about things in a way I may not discover on my own. This production left me very disappointed in the Goodman's choice of directors.
  • Posted by: Leona Rund Zions at 03/08/2012 09:31 PM
    Loved "Red", was engaged by "Race", was left with mouth agape after last night's viewing of "Camino Real". My vision was intermittently blocked by the stream of people leaving the premisses in mid "play". I and my companion were rooted in our seats as if voyeurs at a mass collision. Loved the Stage Set (wonderfully imagignative); felt deeply for the actors who must really need jobs during this economy. I believe they should get combat pay. As for what transpired on stage...well...! I believe a bunch of sophomores who had been sniffing glue, sexting, and secretly logged on to porno web sites for experience would have done a far better job of directing/staging. Tennesse Williams' poetic prose still came through when the gratuitous maelstrom of business didn't get in the way. The choices of music did add somewhat towards making this travesty somewhat more palatable. If the goal was to present life as being interminable until and beyond the end, then congratulations are due. If it was to present something fresh, inciteful and theatrically fulfilling then...fageddaboudit!!! I'[m not asking for my money back, but Is it possible to get back a wasted two hours of my life, please?
  • Posted by: Dan Freitag at 03/12/2012 08:59 AM
    As a subscriber, I was VERY disappointed in the production of "Camino Real". I could not wait for it to be over. In fact, I almost walked out on it. A more disconnected play I have never seen. Not a single character was sympathetic. Most were simply annoying. Not sure what was on Williams' mind when he wrote this, but I would rather he had not.
  • Posted by: Stephen Yachnin at 03/15/2012 11:06 AM
    We have been subscribers for about 10 years, and never in your history of plays have we seen such a disgusting play as Camino Real. We have never left a play early, but we left this one after 35 minutes. The director of this play never gave it a chance to portray what Williams' was trying to say, and he just sensationalized the sex and disgusting aspects of human behavior. Mr. Falls you should be ashamed of yourself for putting on this garbage.
  • Posted by: John at 03/31/2012 10:16 PM
    While the acting was fantastic the play itself was hard to follow. Various acts of sex and violence are unnecessary to any plot that this play may have. While the critics may praise this play I found it nothing more than a visusal assualt.
  • Posted by: Mary Ann at 04/01/2012 03:08 PM
    i think Camino Real is one of the most artistic and thought provoking plays I have ever seen during my 30 pluis years of attendance. Kudos to you, the director and cast for staging this version. Keep up the good work. Mary Ann
  • Posted by: Marc Pinate at 04/04/2012 11:01 AM
    I want to applaud the Goodman Theatre for having the guts and vision to present Calixto Bieito's Camino Real. I saw the show last week and was riveted. I moved from San Francisco to Chicago almost two years ago to pursue my MFA in Directing at the Theatre School. This is the BEST play I've seen in Chicago. BRAVO. I was inspired, moved and blown away. Thank you for stepping away from realism and traditional narrative for this production. The phenomenological moments of pure experience, apart from rational explanation, cut deep into my soul. Please keep pushing the envelope and keep pushing Chicago audiences towards this risk taking kind of theatricality.
  • Posted by: Rose Schmidt at 04/05/2012 05:41 PM
    Not so much a dream as a nightmare. I'm glad that you were prepared for either "loved it/hated it" reactions. The consensus of the audience around me was that it was a "waste of time"; they were reading my thoughts. The music was lovely though. At least I now know to avoid any opera or theater work that has Calixto's thumbprint.
  • Posted by: Emily Lindner at 04/06/2012 02:44 PM
    I took a group of friends to Camino last night...I make a habit of not checking out a play beforehand so as to experience my own perspective...wrong decision this time. The play was soooo painful. We couldn't wait to exit the theatre, but because I was trapped I went from receptive mode into the cognitive to figure out what I was viewing and protect myself from the horror. First let me say that the work is a masterpiece, was well staged and very well acted. I felt compassion for the players who had done such a great job only to be faced with an audience all too eager to escape from what they'd witnessed...they deserved long applause and I'm writing this mostly to let someone know that I'm clapping enthusiastically from a safe distance. I guess that, for me, it's all too real, what our culture has lost over the past 60+ years, how the dream has been fractured, etc. I don't know how audiences in the 1950's, while the culture was Ozzie and Harrioting, reacted to such a message...perhaps the vivid imagery of blood and heart extraction were a necessary wake up call...as for myself and my little cluster of theatre goers, we are so painfully aware of the message of the piece that a little less graphic realism would have been plenty to get the powerful point across
  • Posted by: beatriz Iorgulescu at 04/12/2012 09:28 PM
    Mr. Fall you should be ashame of yourself for putting on this garbage. I found this production nothing more than an insult to my intelligence. Showing Calixto's work taught me how to avoid any opera or theater work where he is involved. I am so sorry because I was really looking for a good production that will show me the real inside of Camino Real. Mr. Fall, congratulations you have lost my donation to the Goodman Theater for next season!
  • Posted by: Kim Rasmussen at 04/14/2012 08:39 PM
    We are subscribers at the Goodman and have enjoyed each play we have seen in the past two years. Had this been our first play at the Goodman, we never would have subscribed. It was very awkward after the play - it seemed that people could not leave fast enough. Hopefully this will not hurt next seasons renewal. Unfortunately the first play for next season is another Tennessee Williams play. Hopefully this production will be better.
  • Posted by: fred shapiro at 04/23/2012 04:45 PM
    This was a very good play, weell staged. My wife and I loved it. Fred Shapiro.
  • Posted by: Carol at 04/24/2012 02:18 PM
    My feeling about your play is best described by the comments my husband, sitting on my right, and another gentleman, sitting on my left made when the play was over. They both stood up and at the same time said "I know why there wasn't an intermission. If there had been there would have been no audience for the second half." I think that pretty much sums it up.
  • Posted by: James at 05/07/2012 07:57 PM

    I at first was going to complain about Camino Real only because my wife and I did not quite get it. I am glad I did not complain because I never do except to complain about complainers. We saw the play on Saturday afternoon. Monday evening my wife, a veterinarian, described her day working with the pet owners as just like Camino Real and after her explaining what happened then we got the message that we are often in Camino Real. It is always best to wait and not make rash decisions about anything.

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