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`Warrior Ant': daring mega-theater. Afro-Caribbean and Japanese motifs in a surprising blend

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At a time when stage productions often seem flat and two-dimensional, director Lee Breuer has devoted a sizable chunk of his career to cooking up a more spectacular approach. The latest result of his labor is a show called ``The Warrior Ant,'' ultimately meant to last a dozen hours and take three evenings to present. Only a few portions of it have been whipped into final form so far, but they're a rousing entertainment in themselves - lively, ambitious, and unconventional enough to make a good opener for this year's edition of the Next Wave Festival, the avant-garde smorgasbord put on each fall at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

Second cross-cultural hybrid

Mr. Breuer is fascinated by unlikely combinations, but there's nothing haphazard about the choices he makes in stirring ingredients together. His previous Next Wave enterprise, for instance, was ``The Gospel at Colonus,'' an acclaimed production that moved the Sophocles tragedy ``Oedipus at Colonus'' to a black American church and set the ancient Greek text to contemporary gospel-style music. Although this sounds like an arbitrary marriage of incompatible elements, it represented a calculated (and successful) attempt to develop a vital kind of stage presentation not based on too-familiar British, Hollywood, and Actors Studio models.

``The Warrior Ant'' is a continuation of Breuer's longstanding search for fresh and productive cross-cultural hybrids. This time he has gone farther afield than ever in his quest, spicing the show with Afro-Caribbean music, Japanese puppetry, and West African storytelling. He falls too much in love with his ingredients at times, allowing the momentum of the production to flag - and making it hard to imagine how three whole evenings of similar stuff could be anything but overextended. Yet there's enough laughter, poetry, and exuberance in the first three hours' worth to whet one's appetite for at least a little more.

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