“A Bend in the River” is based on traditional Cambodian folklore, exploring issues of morality, specifically, as put by the performance’s choreographer, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, “At what cost do we seek revenge?”
The story is about Kaley, a young girl who is eaten (along with her father, mother and three brothers) by a giant crocodile, Moha, at a bend in a river near a Cambodian village called Kompong Vongkiri. Although Kaley is the main character, the story is told through the narration and point of view of her mother. Prior to her demise, Kaley promises to return in her next life as a larger and stronger crocodile to avenge the death of her mother.
Next, Vichek Moni, the local healer, finds a large egg in the reeds. The egg hatches into a crocodile, which Moni names, in honor of the original, Kaley, not knowing it is actually Kaley reborn. Moni teaches the creature how to transform into a human and swallow ‘him’ temporarily in order to easily transport the healer across the river to aid injured villagers. Once older, Kaley reveals her true identity to Moni, explaining her purpose of revenge. But Moni encourages Kaley to move on and enjoy her new life.
The casino is located across from Planten um Blamen park. When you pop up from the metro its vertical stature contrasts the green of the park. The outside is rather plain, except for overbearing columns and a touch of red.
Inside feels like the entrance to a hotel, coats checked to the left. Up the elevator you enter a sterile room: rough red carpet, parent’s basement (cheap attempt at extravagance) bar, people dressed in varying formality, a surprising lack of floozies, and equally spaced tables. A central hallway leads to the back where you can pick up chips from a bank cashier-style counter with two blonds sitting behind thick glass.
Most people are serious. One man, flat out of chips, throws down 500 Euros on the table with a grin. Consistently betting 150 Euros on 0, 7, and 36, he reminds me of a giant slug belching green 50 Euro pellets. He tells me he likes the color of my skirt, petting my hip, as if his overindulgence has bought him the right. Some people put down money and then, not even watching their play, run to another table as if luck has a dog whistle. Watching provides no excitement for jaded eyes.
The woman next to me is edged on by the staff, wanting to win for him as he repeats, “I know you will win this time, OK next time, next time.” On the way out, someone sees their lucky number win, “Oh, I knew I should have played one more time.” They think they can control luck despite the knowledge that odds are stacked against them.
A bent-over Kathryn Hunter, dressed in tails and a bowler hat and swinging her arms like an ape, enters the stage. After assessing her surroundings, she reaches a white podium. Gripping the front edges of the podium with the tips of her fingers, she addresses the audience as “Esteemed members of the academy.”
“Kafka’s Monkey,” based on “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka, adapted by Colin Teevan, humorously presents a monkey, Red Peter, describing to a group of academics its transformation from a wild jungle creature to the civilized being before them. In between swigs from a silver flask, the monkey describes being shot from a tree, sea vessel transportation, and its first encounters with humans.
Since it has been five years since the monkey departed from the “Gold Coast,” it apologizes for not remembering its “prior” life. Instead it focuses on its education in how to be a successful man. Thus, the play focuses more on what it means to be human than what it means to be ape.