new-york

Prisoner of Love

New York Theater Workshop

On a steeply raked, lime green stage, downtown doyenne Ruth Maleczech, who plays Jean Genet in the theatrical adaptation of his posthumously published Prisoner of Love, 1986, capers beneath a crystal chandelier and a plastic tarpaulin, at the very edge of the stage. This behavior literalizes Genet’s assertion that “a border is where human personality expresses itself most fully.” Appropriate, too, is the haze-filled theater space, blurring lines of sight, conjuring the “faint intoxication” of his last book’s maelstrom of lust and power. Director JoAnne Akalaitis and composer Philip Glass—with coadaptors Maleczech and Chiori Miyagawa—tease out the ambiguities at the heart of a quasi-autobiographical novel by a man who called himself a “natural sham.” For one thing, the outlaw/saint Genet is played by a woman, a strategy intended to frustrate any direct correspondence between the appearance

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