Ildiko Nemeth and her New Stage Theatre Company are presenting another beautiful puzzle of a theater piece — Fernando Arrabal’s “Garden of Delights” — at the Theater for the New City through Dec. 2.
Nearly every piece of the puzzle is fascinating — and gorgeous to look at — but they don’t fit together in a conventional manner.
Nemeth works in an abstract, suggestive style designed to challenge theatergoers who are looking for a traditional narrative approach. Like last winter’s “Hypnotik,” the new piece could be seen as a riff on that comment Jean-Luc Godard once made to a critic about his offbeat films having “a beginning, middle and end — just not necessarily in that order.”
“Garden of Delights” introduces us to a great actress named Lais (played with tremendous force and oddball humor by Kaylin Lee Clinton) as she is preparing to do a phone interview with a show that allows audience members to question celebrities.
The weirdly detached host complains that he is used to having his guests live in the studio for the show, but Lais is a Garbo-like recluse who never appears in public except on stage.
Her secluded home includes a flock of women/sheep who appear from time to time and a weird bald man in a cage who dresses in what looks like a shiny gorilla suit.
The line between great acting and madness seems to disappear when Lais is offstage. The only thing that keeps her even slightly tethered to reality are the questions coming in from her fans over the phone — in odd intervals that suggest Lais might be imagining the whole thing.
Arrabal and Nemeth flash back to Lais’ youth in a convent where she and her best friend fantasize about the lives they will lead once they are free adults. Lais meets a strange young man in the woods who convinces her to try on his time-travel helmet.
“Garden of Delight” is played out in the largest space at the Theater for the New City — a hangar-like venue that allows for the creation of huge stage pictures. Nemeth uses the depth and breadth of the big box theater like a giant canvas on which there is always something bizarre and beautiful to look at.
Nemeth has recruited an impressive group of design and technical people to accomplish her vision, from the video projections of Laia Cabrera and Isabelle Duverger to the striking costume and lighting design of Egle Paulauskaite and Federico Restrepo.