Theater Review: ‘Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec’ Transforms Greenwich Village into 19th Century Paris

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec in puppet form

By Jonathan Spira on 25 May 2021
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Although travel is slowly returning, it’s nonetheless possible to be transported not only to Paris, but to the Paris of Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, without stepping foot on an airplane. All one must do is purchase a ticket to attend the delightful “Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Latrec,” as the show takes the theatergoer to Montmantre in the City of Lights’ 18th arrondissement, where the artist spent a portion of his last syphilis-ridden months on earth.

“Voyeur” is immersive theater at its best.  The show, conceived and directed by Mara Lieberman, uses the windows and streets of Greenwich Village as its stage.  The audience, small Covid-friendly groups, are led by the enthusiastic Tour Guide (Sophia Carlin), who is accompanied by a windup music box that sets the mood, as do the excellent period costumes by Christopher Metzger.

This is no mere walk in the park.  Over the course of an hour, theatergoers including myself covered an eight-square-block area, as masked performers emerged seemingly out of nowhere or appeared in transformed shop windows or on a traffic triangle.  The cast successfully conjures the mood, cafes, and especially the cabarets of late 19th century Paris.

The artist’s mother, Countess Adèle-Zoë-Marie-Marquette Tapié de Céleyran

The syphilitic artiste is omnipresent, albeit as a puppet designed by James Ortiz.  Along the way we meet the artist’s father, Alphonse (Fé Torres), his mother, CountessAdèle-Zoë-Marie-Marquette Tapié de Céleyran (Megan Lako) on stilts wearing a flowing white gown, and a young Alphonse (Josh McWhortor) and his young Adele (Annika Rudolph), who perform a frame dance.

Fixtures of late 19th century Paris abound: As we meander through the streets and boulevards of the Village, we encounter the allumeur deréverbères or lamplighter (Eileen Kielly), can-can dancers including Jane Avil, whom Toulouse-Latric made famous through his paints of her (Colleen McCurley and, as Avil, Bianca Bugarelliand), and a masked striptease dancer in yet another storefront (Natasha Frater).

The moving performance included a casual encounter with two opera singers (Brooke Larimer and Sarah Jewel Proctor), who perform an a capella version of Léo Delibes’ “Flower Duet” (“Sous le dôme épais”) from the opera “Lakmé” on Fifth Avenue.

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec in puppet form on his deathbed

“Voyeur,” which bills itself as the longest running pandemic show in the city, is extremely Covid safe and celebrated its 250th performance in April.  All cast members who are not behind glass must wear masks at all times, as must all members of the audience.  Everyone must maintain a safe social distance throughout the performance as well.

THE DETAILS

Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec
Bated Breath Theatre Company
The Duplex
61 Christopher Street
New York City, N.Y. 10014
www.unmakinglautrecplay.com

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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