A Theatrical Tour du Force...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 02/23/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... and seemingly a popular one, with no less than three DVD performances of it available. So... Perhaps I missed something, since I found it to be little more than a theatrical exercise, a 66-minute display of stagecraft. But there's a market for one-person theater, and it's not only about low production costs. Rather, it's about intimacy and anomie, and in these terms, "La Voix Humaine" is quite successful. The only singer/actress is seen in her bedroom, in her nightclothes, anxiously waiting a phone call from her lover, who has broken off their relationship, as we gather eventually. We hear only the woman's side of a frantic telephone conversation, interrupted at times by bad connections. Younger audience members might well be puzzled by the "presence" of others on the lovers' phone connection; they will never have had the pleasure of using a "party line". The woman is alternately euphoric and hysterical. We the audience, the outside party liners so to speak, overhear her despair, her wheedling and pleading, the fact of her attempted suicide and the implicit threat of another attempt. We get the full story, in short, from her side, and yet, though we never hear the man's voice, we come to know a little about him also.
The libretto was written by Jean Cocteau, in close collaboration with composer Francis Poulenc. Unfortunately, to my ears, the music isn't really very interesting, and the vocal 'format' of short outbursts over a phone clutched in the singer's face doesn't allow for any particular melodic display. Likewise, Cocteau's dramatic monologue was perhaps strikingly original in 1958, when La Voix premiered, but it will strike a listener of 2010 as altogether predictable.
An ambiguous review at best, n'est pas? But that's the most I have to offer. If you like this sort of thing, you'll find this production very skillfully done."