(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/24.)
The lines between pleasure and pain keep blurring in Kneehigh Theater’s ecstasy-drunk “Tristan & Yseult,” which opened on Monday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. This is true not only for the doomed-to-love title characters, who notoriously have that whole Eros and Thanatos thing going, but also for the audience in their thrall.
Long stretches of Emma Rice’s ever-surprising adaptation of an ancient tale of fatal adultery feel like a giddy party, though one at which the guests are perhaps trying too hard to have a good time. Bring out the balloons! Raise your glasses! Sing along with the band!
Then, before you know it, you’ve been ambushed by a sorrow that makes your eyes sting. And with that startling sadness comes the realization that, all along, a jagged heart has been throbbing at the center of these merry revels. You understand what one of the show’s characters, a cuckolded king who is no longer sure whether to rule with his heart or his head, means when he proclaims, “Let ambivalence come.”