The Scarlet Stone
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Royce Hall, UCLA
One of the great stories in Persian mythology and literature concerns the love affair between Rostam, a champion warrior from a province now identified as being in Afghanistan, and Tahmineh, a beautiful princess from a neighboring kingdom. The two share a night of love and conceive a son. When Rostam leaves, (as epic heroes must) Tahmineh raises their son, Sohrab, who grows into an athlete and a brilliant fighter. The two men never meet.
Years later the young man, misled by a crafty king, unknowingly challenges his sire on the battlefield. The elder man kills the boy before realizing it is his own child dying in his arms.
The story is told in the Shahnameh, an epic poem by the 10th century Persian poet Ferdowsi, and it serves as the central narrative in the Scarlet Stone, adapter/director Shahrokh Yadegari’s visually stunning program that combines music, dance and video animation.
The title of the work is also the title of a book by a contemporary Iranian writer and activist Siavash Kasrai, a disenchanted Communist who wrote about his disillusion (and presumably the pitfalls of intransigent ideology), filtering it through a variation on the 10th century tale.
Though there is much to savor, the show’s pivotal and ultimately most riveting element is the work of choreographer Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam and the sensuous performances of the two female dancers: Miriam Peretz, who dances the role of the seductive Tamineh, and Ida Saki as the beguiling Gordafarid, the heroic warrior girl who crosses paths with Sohrab and wins his heart. The male dancers include Ghalam who portrays Sorhab and Afshin Mofid as the mighty Rostam. Both are both impressive in their agility and bold grace.
If the dancing served as the emotional core of the story, its breadth and grandeur is captured in the spectacle – an intermingling of Ian Wallace’s videography, Wen-Ling Liao’s lighting, and Yadegari’s sound and music as expressions of a kind of universal landscape in which human beings and their joys and woes are diminutive shadows.
The program’s weakest link is its spoken word, intoned by the narrator with a flat affect that is perhaps in keeping with Iranian tradition but fell jarringly on my ear. A bigger issue for non-Farsi speakers is the translation that appears in captions beamed above the stage. It seemed to be missing the music of the original language and the narrative didn’t flow all that well.
But so sweeping and impressive are the other elements of the production that this limitation hardly seemed to matter. The show played for one night at Royce Hall at UCLA last Saturday, August 29. Try to catch it if it returns.
Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, L.A. Closed.