A Salvaged Conqueror

The very thought of stage acting usually sends me into nightmarish flashbacks of high school plays gone by. Paint Your Wagon was especially terrifying, complete with cardboard scenery toppling over and overwrought junior thespians emoting themselves silly … *shivver* So who knows what it means when I actually say something positive about a play, an opera no less, put on by Salvage Vanguard Theater?

Genghis Khan at Salvage Vanguard Theater.jpgI caught their most recent production, Genghis Khan, just before it closed last week. While the title evokes images of a feared conqueror and vicious battles, this was a surprisingly simple opera that embraced a revisionist perspective of the Mongol leader as introspective and humane. I’ll leave the full review to those better qualified to pass judgment, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed the intimate approach to telling Khan’s story. In all honesty, it would take healthy doses of nudity and medication for me to ever truly love opera, but in spite of that handicap I managed to leave the theater feeling entertained, enlightened, and impressed.

Genghis Khan was the second SVT event I attended, after seeing The Cry Pitch Carrolls reprised in late 2003. It’s a testament to SVT’s creativity and production values that a theater-phobic oaf could actually make it through two operas, and plan to go back for more. Avant-garde theater may not be your usual cup of tea, but there’s something to be said for its reliance on performances and invention rather than staging and props, especially when the actors and musicians are so good at creating a story out of a minimal environment.

Salvage Vanguard Theater is currently staging its 11th season at the Off Center near East 7th and Robert Martinez. Genghis Khan has moved back into history, but additional productions are slated for June and July. Chances are they will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. And that’s a good thing.

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