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There are not enough superlatives to do full justice to the magical multimedia performance by Dulcinea Langfelder & Co. in Victoria, presented twice Nov. 20th by N.C. State University Center Stage. Using live actors, music, slide projections, and video clips, actress/singer/dancer/choreographer Dulcinea Langfelder and cohorts created an at-times hilarious but ultimately heartbreaking portrait of a spunky old Jewish lady who may have lost her memory, her home, and her cat, but has not lost her sense of humor despite suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
With toes pointed like a ballerina, Langfelder used her feet, not her arms, to propel the wheelchair-bound Victoria around the Stewart Theatre stage — and into the viewer's hearts — with baby steps. The multitalented New York-born Canadian performer, who developed Victoria from an original concept and writings by Charles Fariala, first performed the show (in French) in February 1999. (Victoria made its English-language debut in Montréal in May 2000.) It is a show that transcends language.
In sublimely eloquent facial expression, gesture, dialogue, mime, and — most remarkably — in dance, with or without her wheelchair serving as a surprisingly supple and versatile dance partner, Dulcinea Langfelder casts new light on the shadowy world of Alzheimer's sufferers, where inchoate fears frequently jump up to spoil even the sunniest day. It is cruel world where the geriatric patients, who have lost their memories as well as their abilities to live on their own, are often warehoused and subjected to impersonal (if not outright abusive) attendants and left to await death … alone … in a shabby room … in an overflowing adult diaper.
Not so Victoria. She, at least, merits the attentions — and concern — of stern but sympathetic Orderly (wonderfully played by Yves Simard) — apparently an Eastern European immigrant — who allows his befuddled charge an extraordinary amount of freedom and treats her mental and physical debilities with a rare tenderness and respect. After all, dignity is the first thing that many institutions take from their penniless elderly residents.
Saturday night, Dulcinea Langfelder & Co. thoroughly entertained, as well as educated, its NCSU Center Stage audience. With substantial creative contributions from set and lighting designer Ana Cappelluto, electroacoustic composer Christian Calon, videographer Yves Labelle, video consultant Jimmy Lakatos, and directorial coaches Maryse Pigeon and Erika Batdorf, Dulcinea Langfelder and Yves Simard amused and deeply touched the viewers of Victoria. It is a one-of-a-kind production that waltzed away with this theatergoer's heart.
Note: November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month (http://www.alz.org/nadm/overview.asp [inactive 5/05]). NCSU Center Stage presented two performances of Victoria on Nov. 20th in cooperation with the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association (http://www.alznc.org/). N.C. State University Center Stage: http://www.ncsu.edu/centerstage. Dulcinea Langfelder & Co.: http://www.dulci-langfelder.org/ [inactive 9/05].