Maria Miu
 
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Articles
Romanian Scene Designers: Maria MIU
By Luminita Batali


"The Comical Illusion”
The history of theater has known two famous magical moments: “The Tempest” by Shakespeare and “The Comical Illusion” by Pierre Corneille, much played on the world stages during the last decade of the 20th century, with splendid stage designs. The last play, impregnated by the Cartesian French spirit – its purposes are not metaphysical as in the Shakespearian play, the mystery, in harmony with the French classicism, has a human dimension – “The Comical Illusion” fundamentally depends on the stage design. On its success depends the beauty of the play, but most and foremost the message, the accomplishment of the theater metaphor before our eyes.
Maria Miu created in the proscenium (the stage, as the entire Comedy Theater building, belongs to Modernism, being created in 1935 by the German architect Rudolf Frankel) a stucco framing with volutes and floral elements. By this stage design procedure the artist “has dressed” the modernist theater with an ancient European theater “suit”, and the floral stucco works prepared the stage, from the stylistic point of view, for the play to follow. First, for the representation taking place in the opening of the action in the cave of Alcandre, the wizard who, by his magic trade, brought before the eyes of the old Pridamant the adventures of his son Clindor, who had fled into the world.
Remarkable, as image and stage design creation, there has been the night moment when the hand of Lise, the soubrette, seemed to be holding the moon globe or the moment when the wizard was floating in the air in a literal Deus ex macchina appearance. It has been noted as well the cage – prison taking in the higher register, usually inert, of the play space, the hero Clindor. This procedure, as well as the ingenious appearance of the wizard Alcandre, made use of the theater's gift to amaze, to fascinate.
Equally remarkable was the stage design procedure executed with great talent and, therefore, plastic efficiency, by means of which the shadow of a high plant whose profile laid against a blue, nocturnal, moony background suggests a wide plane, a true visual synecdoche. ”The Comical Illusion” cannot be conceived outside the fairy scene, and the settings generating it have been up to the expectations.
When evoking this Maria Miu’s beautiful stage design creation for ”The Comical Illusion”, directed by Alexandru Darie, we also recall the composition with the characters – actors crowding at the end of the play, just as a group gets together, in the small stucco framing with volutes and the way they looked as if in a smaller family picture, bordered by the larger picture of the theater and of the stage.

„The Marriage”
Between the inspired Mihai Madescu’s scene settings – see the candles procession between building suggestions, revealing to the sight lighted icons, as a visual quintessence of Orthodox Russia – and Maria Miu’s costumes there is from the very beginning a dialogue where both the stage design and the costumes illustrate and support with glamour the dramatic situations. But, in a psychological comedy (bitter, but still a comedy!) as “The Marriage” where the heroes' characterization is vital for the success of the theatrical act, it seems as if the costumes wore an extra- weight. No doubt that Maria Miu succeeds once again in tackling several problems. First, she dresses adequately and suggestively each character. If, for Agafia Tihonova – played by the wonderful Andreea Bibiri, she creates light dresses, in light colors and with a teenager air (very adequate for the style and the beauty of the actress), for the old bachelor (already the seventh adviser …) Podkolesin, magnificently played by Cornel Scripcaru, the dominant note, and at the same time a stage design clue for the deciphering and the knowing of the main lead, the artist uses, in principal, the silky capote. The piece of cloth looks so nice, so comfortable, that it expresses the idea that it is an almost inseparable friend of its master, and a refuge at the same time. Thus, in one of the most beautiful moments of the play from visual and dramatic point of view, the hero pictures himself at the wedding together with the bride (whose dress is another wonderful creation) in the silky capote! Let us note here as well the outfit of the priest who, in the dream, lends the features of the best friend of our here, Kocikariov, played by Razvan Vasilescu. The golden silk of the priest cloth becomes a very strong element in the visual economy of the stage, of the entire play space, because in the penumbra, in the mysterious light of the dream, the bride's dress and the brocade cloth of the priest shine the most.
Maria Miu geographically sets the play using several elements, without excessive ethnographic props. The well-known Russian shawl with big flowers, in this case, red roses, covering the cream then rosy dress, of the match maker (directly inspired by the Russian popular costume and completed with a decorative border in the lower part) and the Russian man shirt for the servant – valet. Just like Zahar, Stepan illustrates the half absorption of the civilization and of the customs of the Western society by the petty Russian aristocracy by this hybrid species, of highly comical potential, individualized in our country as well and greatly illustrated in the plays and the anecdotes of the 19th century.
We notice for the other characters as well, match makers, mothers and aunts, relatives and people, the Western costumes, of early 19th century, executed with great technical and plastic accuracy, and, especially, with care for details, elements which are imperative when the representation is realistic. Moreover, the chromatics of the noble materials (silk and a lot of velvet, caressing matter absorbing sounds and light) is kept in a dark tonality, but by warm colors (ochre, brown, gray, warm green, kaki). We deem that this chromatic atmosphere giving off intimacy and human warmth, in their turn, constant qualities of the theatrical genre deeply rooted in the Romanian style, the pre-war style non-perverted by the savagery of the communist decades, in Bulandra Theater, is among the successes of this creation signed Maria Miu.
But the piece de resistance of the costume creation in “The Marriage” is by far the white satin dress, elegant in volume but firm in shape, characterizing this time not only the character as well as the dramatic situation with great plastic force, irradiating across the entire stage space. This stage design symbol of Gogol's play is achieved by Maria Miu both with force, by the clearly cut volume, and with delicacy, expressed in the simple (silk tassels) yet precious adornment of the bride dress.
All we can do by these lines is to render a fragmentary image of a career already numbering tens of theater and televisions shows, UNITER and UAP prizes, and a debut with a great impact as art director in films, by the collaboration in „Amen” by Costa Gavras. If, nevertheless, we tried to find the stylistic coordinates of Maria Miu's creation we would say that they gravitate around two poles: sense and sensitivity.


Article reproduced in „Observator Cultural” issue 261,
Www.observatorcultural.ro
 
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