Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Needles and Opium
American Conservatory Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Everything That's Beautiful, Paradise Found, Christine Andreas: BeMused, New Girl in Town, and The Baltimore Waltz

Olivier Normand
Photo by Tristram Kenton
Robert Lepage's Needles and Opium, now playing at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater, is one cool production. This 95-minute presentation is nothing short of mesmerizing.

This is intellectual and technical theatre as opposed to linear realism. It's performed in a rotating, three-dimensional cube hovering above the stage. The projections, video, gymnastics, music, sound, lighting and actors all come together to provide stunningly theatrical storytelling.

There are three stories to tell: Jean Cocteau has returned to Paris in 1949 both fascinated and disillusioned by his first visit to New York; Miles Davis in the same year made his first visit to Paris and fell in love with French chanteuse Juliette Greco; and forty years later Robert, an actor and a lonely Québécois, is desperately trying to free himself from his dependence on his former lover.

The brilliant Olivier Normand plays both Cocteau and Robert, and appears and disappears through doors, windows and mid-air. He's especially excellent in Robert's scene in the recording studio. His French accent as Cocteau is perfect. Wellesley Robertson III appears as a physically adept Miles Davis. He doesn't speak but we hear plenty of music from his trumpet.

Bottom Line: Canadian visionary director Robert Lepage presents a brilliant collision of digital wizardry, acrobatic choreography, and traditional stagecraft through hypnotic vignettes exploring the complex relationship between art, addiction and heartache. I was spellbound by the revolving great cube on the Geary stage with the swirl of video projections and the cool jazz of Miles Davis' trumpet. It is one-of-a-kind theatrical experience.

Needles and Opium plays through April 23, 2017, at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco Ticket information can be found by calling 415-749-2228 or visiting Coming up next Battlefield based on The Mahabharata and a play by Jean Claude Carrière adapted and directed by Peter Brook . It opens April 26 and runs through May 21.

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