Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Astrid Bas finds the music of La Musica Deuxième

Elegant and Classic Reading Duras

Astrid Bas

notes by Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

French actor Astrid Bas, who often graces the stage of Paris's renown Theatre de L'Odeon, and American actor Daniel Pettrow, a veteran of many European productions, read Marguerite Duras' La Musica Deuxième at Boyle Heights' Casa 0101 Monday March 31 as part of a U.S. tour highlighting actors' special relationships to authors.

The classic beauty and supple poetic phrasing of Mme Bas won most of the exchanges. Mme Bas' located all the poetry implicit to her role as the wife of a man whom she is about to divorce after three years of separation from him. Her pauses and sense of music within the text lent the air of a Greek tragedy to the reading.

A graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique, Paris, and Ecole Nationale du Théâtre de Strasbourg, Mme Bas most notably worked with George Lavaudant at Theatre de L'Odeon in much classic drama. Lavaudant's sense of gravitas has been a perfect match for the elegant figure and chiseled perfection of Mme Bas, whose unadorned face can assume and sustain looks both of feminine maturity and teenage mischievousness.

Mr. Pettrow's role of husband was dignified and desperate; he also reached for poetic scansion in his outpourings of measured grief, managing his brokenness through ellipsis and curt short syllables. While Mme Bas brought lyricism to her role, Mr. Pettrow brought halting desperation to his.

I asked Mme Bas if she chose the text in part because it is so uncharacteristic of Duras, in whose work women often feel powerless, a symptom of Duras' own often tragic biography. In this text, most of the power resides in the woman.

"Oh, yes, very definitely," Mme Bas said. "The character here is different and she does have a lot of control."

The text of the play, abridged, was read in English and French, and also projected in supertitles. Casa 0101, a recent private venture within Boyle Heights' Adelante redevelopment zone, was filled to capacity for the reading.

More information on the text and other French culture is available here at

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