By WILLIAM MCGUIRE III
special to the Greylock Glass
The Mass Live Arts festival at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington continued this week with “Send for the Million Men.” This critically-acclaimed reexamination of the trial and execution of Sacco and Venzetti explores the circumstances that led to the pair of Italian immigrants being wrongfully accused of a robbery and murder committed in Braintree, MA in 1920. The piece features writing, direction and mechanical prop design by Joseph Silovsky, video design by Victor Morales, and music by Catherine McRae.
From its first moments, “Send for the Million Men” reveals itself as an exhibition of sublime chaos and contrasting themes, rife with earnest storytelling and misdirection, history and unfulfilled possibility, past and present, worker and oppressor, innocent and guilty. The piece uses animatronics and virtual rendering alongside human performance to simulate and explain the lives, trials and imprisonment of Sacco and Venzetti, acknowledging their present historical caricature while painting a more familiarizing recollection of them as two as men who were wronged.
“Send for the Million Men” is concrete and suggestive, containing truths, illusions, and obvious lies, all of which contribute to providing an emotionally powerful condemnation of the disregard for civil liberty, propagation of anti-Italian prejudice, and suppression of anarchist philosophy that robbed them of their lives. Though Sacco and Venzetti may be long gone, “Send for the Million Men” succeeds in vindicating the two by washing away the false accusations and revealing them as martyred victims of hate and judicial tyranny. In doing so, it provides one of the most moving depictions of character and injustice one can find in a theatre.
“Send for the Million Men” fits perfectly into Mass Live Arts’ aim to provide a home for non-normative, groundbreaking experimental theatre in the Berkshires. “People are not raised to love theatre,” explains the festival’s Artistic Director Ilan Bachrach, “this is a festival for people who are frustrated with theatre.” Ilan says the main goal of Mass Live Arts is to exhibit “exciting, vital performance work: artists who are alive.” If you value powerful ideas and innovative modes of communication, “Send for the Million Men” and Mass Live Arts were made for you.
“Send for the Million Men” has one final showing tonight, July 18th, at 8pm, before the festival prepares for its final show, the world premiere of “Tarzana,” described as a comic book given life. “Tarzana” is a Mass Live Arts commission by the esteemed and award-winning experimental theatre company Radiohole, whom Ilan praises as “one of the most important theatre groups we’ve seen in years.” “Tarzana” runs through July 23rd, 24th and 25th at 8pm, and you can find more details about the show and other events at Mass Live Arts festival on their website, masslivearts.org.