The story, a little-known film version of which was made by Francesco Rosi, concerns a bride who fails to produce the necessary “stain of honor” on her wedding night, and the bloody murder that her shamed brothers commit in revenge.
“There has never been a death more foretold,” is a line repeated several times throughout the 80-minute performance, and that certainly is true. Whatever “Chronicle” is about, it’s not about plot.
Daniele has translated the story, set in an isolated, probably Colombian, village, into a series of choreographed movements that unfold to the seductive rhythms and insinuating melodies provided by composer Bob Telson.
Telson is best known for his scores and songs for filmmaker Percy Adlon (“Bagdad Cafe,””Rosalie Goes Shopping”) as well as “The Gospel at Colonus,” a spectacular musical that was a hit everywhere but on Broadway.
He has spent most of the last decade immersed in African and South American music (not unlike Paul Simon), and some of the major themes in “Chronicle” can be heard on an album, “Calling You,” released a couple of years ago.
Daniele’s other collaborators are Christopher Barreca, whose surreal set design includes flying food and a long-armed lamp that swings out eerily above the action; lighting designers Jules Fisher and Beverly Emmons, who play around a lot here with shadow and light; and costume designer Toni-Leslie James, who also seems to be having some fun, though most of the outfits also
lend a needed dose of reality in these magic-realism precincts.
“Why do I keep coming back to this forgotten village?” is another line repeated during the evening.
It’s clearly intended to suggest the drawing power of the horror that took place there (“Chronicle” was based on a true event).
But despite the best efforts of this talented company, what Daniele hasn’t located is the very primal emotions that power this tale.
There’s just no getting around the central problem of giving “Chronicle” resonance in a culture that doesn’t prize the hymen quite so greatly.
But vengeance isn’t Garcia Marquez’s only concern, and Daniele rightly picks up on the exculpations of the villagers, each of whom has an excuse for not trying to stop what they all have believed from the outset was inevitable. Daniele doesn’t go far enough with the social side of the story.
“Chronicle” invites comparison to the single example of this type of theater in which everything worked: Julie Taymor’s “Juan Darien,” another play with music (by Elliot Goldenthal) that used life-size puppets, tiny figurines, actors and an enchanting story to make magic realism come shimmeringly alive on the stage.
“Juan Darien” was seen by only a few hundred people when it ran Off Broadway (there is perennial talk of reviving it), but after a decade the show has itself taken on the quality of myth; more than one of us in the audience back then remembers it as among the top experiences we’ve ever had in the theater.
“Chronicle of a Death Foretold,’ on the other hand, strikes me as a mishmash of elements that don’t quite come together and sometimes look vaguely ridiculous.
At the Plymouth, this furious journey from ecstasy to death never takes us out of ourselves, as it must. We’re always tourists in this town.