Butterfly – A Dreamscape

As I’m not precisely sure of the tale I’ve just witnessed, I can only share impressions. Note: The only, very tenuous similarities to Madame Butterfly here are love, loss and Japan.

Butterfly is a gentle maker of kites. On stage, these are bamboo, small, often silk, and given ribbon tails. A suitor, who buys many, leaves a gift wrapped book each time he exits. When he eventually reaches for her, she jumps away and tries to return his gift.

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Naomi Livingstone; Naomi Livingstone and Chris Alexander

One day, testing her wares, the lady meets a lepidopterist – someone who studies butterflies. Both are infatuated with flight and, one would think freedom. Butterfly learns to wield the man’s net much as she does her airborne craft. Flying creatures are depicted by fluttering hands. It’s balletic. They grow close. He moves in. The first time her lover kills, pins and frames a creature, she’s taken aback, but unexpectedly accepts what he does. Shelves at the back of her shop fill with jars containing butterflies.

Her determined pursuer returns with another book, which she refuses. Butterfly’s untrusting lover walks in on this and becomes violently jealous. Subsequently he appears to catch the first man raping her (very effective), presumes she’s acquiescent, mistreats and abandons her.

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Naomi Livingstone, Ramesh Meyyappan, Chris Alexander

Interpretation of the rest of the piece is up for grabs. Some or all of it may be fantasy, dream/nightmare. The men separately return and exit. Butterfly may or may not have a baby. As both male actors manipulate a toddler puppet we never know if they’re supposed to be there as characters as well. All that’s clear is Butterfly’s pain.

Much of the entirely silent-but-for-music piece is eloquently directed by its Creator Ramesh Meyyappan, but its ending is uncomfortably vague.

All three actors do a splendid job with Naomi Livingstone’s Butterfly a nuanced standout. Until things become obscure, we’re with them every step.

David Paul Jones’s Music is consistently appealing and evocative. Choreographer Darren Brownie creates a graceful, fluid narrative.

While one understands that Gavin Glover’s toddler puppet may very well be an imagined child, i.e. intended to be not quite fully realized, it’s so angry looking/lacking in any sweetness, tenderness is elusive.

Set Designer Neil Warmington manifests atmosphere as well as scenery. That screens (covered by kite skeletons) and shelving are held by the same bamboo with which Butterfly makes her kites is a lovely touch. Dozens upon dozens of jars with butterflies suddenly shock towards the end of the piece when Warmington effects a change.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Ramesh Meyyappan and Naomi Livingstone

Brits Off Broadway presents
Butterfly
Created, Directed and Performed by Ramesh Meyyappan
Featuring Naomi Livingstone and Chris Alexander
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
Through May 14, 2016

About Alix Cohen (1187 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.