LIVE THEATER REVIEW — The Gertrude Stein Project

The Gertrude Stein Project is presented by the University of Alberta’s Studio Theatre and is adapted and directed by Beau Coleman. It recounts the story of Stein’s relationship with her intellectual and romantic companion Alice B. Toklas. At the same time it tells the story of Leon Katz, who was credited with finding Stein’s notebooks and later interviewed Toklas about her relationship with Stein.

This performance is a retelling of a recounting of a remembering, it is a self-conscious non-attempt to totalize the life and experiences of Stein and Toklas. The action of the play ranges from monologue to dance, repeated, almost domino-like performance pieces, and traditionally staged theatrical conversation pieces. There are hints at little moments where the audience doesn’t hear the private conversations between Stein and Toklas, they just walk and enjoy an intimate moment as they cross the stage — often with other bits of action happening around them. It is an invitation into a private world with the overarching acknowledgement that it is fragmentary.

Katz is portrayed as an empathetic and eager person who is tender with Toklas, who suffered terribly after Stein’s death. Interwoven are short videos of the real Leon Katz recounting his experience of Toklas’s remembering.

There are five dancers who make up “the white core,” a group who embody and externalize certain mental and emotional processes, physical routines embedded in environments, and past events in the development of the play, all of whom become self-conscious of their roles as such. Fuzzy video recordings of the action are taken in real time and projected for the audience to signify the watermark quality of both memory and the present. Both Stein and Toklas are played each by two different actors and this forces the audience to experience the characters’ multiple dimensionality.

This post-modern, experimental show will speak to Stein lovers or appreciators of modern dance, but may not appeal to the majority of a general audience.

Three and a half out of Five Stars


The Gertrude Stein Project runs at the Timms center at the University of Alberta until April 9th.



more in Theatre Review     |     posted Mar 31st, 2011 at 3:04pm     

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