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New World Performance Laboratory

Love in the Time of Lunatics

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New World Performance Laboratory

Love in the Time of Lunatics
(A variation on Buchner's Leonce and Lena and other illusions)

Directed by James Slowiak
Scenic Design by Douglas-Scott Goheen
Costume Design by Nancy Pope


Jairo Cuesta as The Fool
Salvatore Motta as The Idiot
Debora Totti as The Ninny

J. Cuesta, S. Motta, and D. Totti in Lunatics


In Love in the Time of Lunatics, NWPL embarks on an investigation of love, love stories, illusions and idiocy.  Combining clowns, cabaret, and Buchner's dark comic vision, the performance attempts to strip love down to the thing itself.  The three actors represent the eternal triangle of Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin.  Pierrot wears a black skullcap and white floppy pants and jacket.  Harlequin wears clothes designed with diamonds of contrasting colors and carries a stick.  Columbine often dresses sumptuously and sensually.  They are in love with one another, often erotically obsessed, in a mocking and treacherous manner.  But this threesome does not fit societys vision of marriage and family.  They have different values.  They are not normal.  How can they know love?  What can they teach us about love?

 The actors (who are actually playing actors playing archetypes playing a variety of roles) use three primary means to wrestle with the different notions of love:  Georg Buchners play Leonce and Lena, The Song of Songs, and their own dreams, memories, and fantasies. 

 The story of Leonce and Lena is a fairly typical commedia delarte inspired scenario.  Prince Leonce of the Kingdom of Popo, a bored and melancholy youth, is commanded by his father to marry Princess Lena of the Kingdom of Pipi.  But Leonce wants to find his own ideal love and takes off to Italy with his philosophical servant, Valerio.  Princess Lena also decides to run away.  On their journey, the two cross paths and Leonce and Lena fall in love without knowing each others true identity.  The wily Valerio arranges for them to be married as the Prince and Princessin effigyand only after the ceremony is the truth discovered. 

 The Song of Songs, also known as The Song of Solomon, is one of the most beautiful mystical love poems ever recorded.  This classic text describes love as the ecstatic union with The Heavenly Bridegroom.  Buchner often makes reference to The Song of Songs in his play and NWPL has created its own version of the text sung in the form of a traditional ballad.

 And then there is our own experience of love.  Are the laws of love an illusion?  Or do some laws of love exist, just not in any fixed form?  How can we find the answer?  In the theatre.  Because through the paradox of the theatre, we still have the possibility to immerse ourselves in life.

 Cultural historian Morris Berman points out that, in the counter-tradition of paradox, truth emerges only when it is not pursued.  So, too, love.  Perhaps the only solution is to follow Rilkes maxim:  Live in the question.

 Love in the Time of Lunatics represents a question to live in.

 NWPL is a community of theatre artists whose mission is to create theatre events and pedagogical programs; to research performance techniques from around the world; and to develop a contemporary performance methodology.  NWPL members are Jairo Cuesta, Salvatore Motta, James Slowiak, and Debora Totti.  NWPL is supported, in part, by The University of Akron, School of Dance, Theatre and Arts Administration and operates as a non-profit corporation under the aegis of The Cleveland Public Theatre.

 For more information visit NWPLs website: or contact NWPL at