Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec

Alison Lian, Leila Mire and Kayla Yee are three of the many live performers in Bated Breath Theatre Company's Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec. Original photos by Hunter Canning.
How close can we get to traditional theatre while coronavirus is still a threat?

By Andrew Andrews

Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec is billed as a “pandemic-friendly theatrical experience.”

Inspired by Bated Breath Theatre Company’s pre-COVID immersive hit Unmaking Toulouse-Lautrec, this adaptation combines acting, dance, live music, puppetry and shadow puppetry with a walking tour of 19th century Paris, played by 21st century Greenwich Village.

Walking from The Duplex on Christopher Street to Judson Church on Washington Square Park, each small, socially-distanced audience catches a glimpse of the artist’s life in not-quite-chronological order.

Escort Ashley Burton pauses to watch Jordan Waters bring life and death to Henri. Puppet by James Ortiz.

Even in the pre-pandemic days, Voyeur would be one of those special “only in New York” experiences that bring moments of joy to the stress of living in the city.

The fact that COVID-19 has virtually eliminated live-and-in-person theatre performances makes Voyeur even more special. Combining all the elements of a traditional production with the special considerations we need for gathering in these times, the show easily quenches the thirst for live theatre without compromising our health and safety.

The large cast is whimsically costumed, and the indoor space features true scenic design and professional technical production.

Attempting to convey the setting of a Paris long-gone is not without its problems: in addition to the abundance of modern automobile traffic and Greenwich Village nightlife, loud music from the East Village All-Stars band busking at nearby restaurants frequently overshadowed the actors as we walked from scene to scene. Despite the distractions, most of the performers played their parts well.

Under normal circumstances, I would consider the $75 price tag considerably high for the overall quality of the production. Noting that the size of the cast necessarily outnumbers that of the audience, and acknowledging that alternatives right now are few and far between, it’s hard to blame Bated Breath for the asking price.

In a pre-pandemic world I’d give this show four stars for effectively binding so many theatrical elements into such a unique experience. Considering the added hardships of bringing this show to fruition while New York is still crawling back to normal, I’m willing to bump my rating up a notch.

5

Andrew Andrews attended Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec at Greenwich Village in New York on Thursday, October 8, 2020 @ 9:00pm to write this review.

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