Adaptation and direction by Amit Drori
From Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
Herzliya Ensemble / Theater Vidy-Lausanne
Orlando (Sylwia Trzesniowska Drori) starts life as a young nobleman in Elizabethan England, becomes a woman overnight while serving as her country's ambassador in 17th century Constantinople, continues through the mannered clarities of the 18th century, the moral and physical damp of Victorian England and into the unsettling present day - 1928, the time in which the Virginia Woolf's novel was written.
The production, from first to last, is very obviously a labor of love for all concerned. It is assured, unhurried, refined, visually and aurally exquisite, and amid are the fine-crafted meditations on gender, loneliness, death and poetry, fires (alas, too few) and squibs of a wry and self-aware humor.
There is enchantment in, say, the model of an Elizabethan mansion that pivots to become a multi-drawered cabinet from which Orlando draws various objects, or in a robot half-puppet called Green, a marvelous stuffed-shirt critic. The stage and object designer is Noam Dover. Amazing. Yayehe Mehari has created a brilliantly complementary soundtrack.
The quietly accomplished Sylwia Drori sweetly offers us, in English, an Orlando who never kicks at his/her fate, a most winning Orlando who invites our complicity. Even so, the actress never seems completely to inhabit the character. It could be that is the intention, because Orlando never really belongs anywhere.
So where's the "but"? Orlando is accessible and very watchable, but for the production really to soar, the script needs paring by about 10-15 minutes.