REVIEWS by Willard
driven by secret passions are the subject of THE GIRL IN THE
FLAMMABLE SKIRT, adapted by Frederique Michel from the short story
collection by Aimee Bender. In each of the four cases that comprise the
90-minute play, women run smack up against the indifference of men and/or
the world itself, leaving them to smoulder with frustration, except for
the wife in "Fugue," who ends up sitting in a field quite happily
chatting up a bush. Odd, goofy, solipsistic stuff from Bender and Michel,
who also directs, with much skill if only because of the anti-dramatic
nature of the text. Since the men are indifferent or wounded clods who
can't muster up much emotion, the conflict is mostly internal, resulting
in static scenes that require an authorial voice for urgency and spice.
Michel, whose dedication to avant-garde theatre is unwavering and admirable,
choreographs her 8-person cast in flowing fashion, occasionally breaking
up the action by freezing the actors in dramatic tableauxs. Charles A.
Duncombe, Jr.'s lighting and rear projection work (videos and stills)
also greatly enhance the production, but the same can't be said for Michel
Gingembre's tatty costumes.
At the City Garage,
1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica through April 21. Call (310) 319-9939.
The excellent (and ocasionally naked) cast includes Maureen Byrnes, Bo
Roberts, Victoria Coulson, Paul M. Rubenstein, Maira Brewton, Kathryn
Sheer, Laurence Coven and Ilana Gustafson.
* * *
There is something timeless and universal about Arthur
Schnitzler's 1900 play La Ronde, which investigated the sexual relations
and social connections between ten couples. At first banned by Austrian
censors for its frankness, the play was too good to remain suppressed
and worked its way into the international repertoire. Then in 1950 Max
Ophuls turned it into a film which emphasized the romance and deliciousness
of its serial liasons.
THE BLUE ROOM, David
Hare's adaptation of La Ronde, which had its
premiere in London three years ago, is closer to Schnitzler than it is
to Ophuls. There isn't much that is romantic or delicious about the love
explored in this version of the play. Cold and cynical better describes
THE BLUE ROOM'S characters, all of whom are played by two actors, Arabella
Field and Lenny Von Dohlen. Field, like Nicole Kidman in the London premiere,
briefly bares it all (as does Von Dohlen) but the nudity comes off as
more clinical than provocative.
While there's nothing wrong with comedy for comedy's sake, THE BLUE
ROOM wants to be more important than just simple entertainment. Hare
isn't solely to blame for the play's apparent superficiality, though.
Field and Von Dohlen are good actors, but perhaps great ones are what's
needed, performers capable of a much wider range. Also, director David
Schweizer isn't at his best here. Known for his highly stylized avant-garde
work, he is unable to dig into the visceral, messy side of love.
At the Pasadena Playhouse,
39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, through
April 21. Call (626) 356-7529.