Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Chromolume Theatre at the Attic
Through May 28
This long one-act by Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party) is a musical update of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1900 play La Ronde which, shocking for its time, featured 10 interconnected sexual encounters. The structure and the characters’ names are Schnitzler’s, though the Young Thing has been transformed from female to male to embrace a broader sexual spectrum. The songs and much of the content are LaChiusa’s.
While Schnitzler’s original focused on social comment and the psychology of the characters, and mostly avoided the sexual act itself, this version takes a more presentational approach and hypes the sexuality, with much graphic (but mostly fully clothed) simulated sex, both oral and genital. The sex seems hurried, awkward, and lacking in intimacy, and the actors sometimes seem to be trying relentlessly to be sexy. The result is about as erotic as a trip to the dentist.
The 10 characters run the gamut, and include the Whore (Michelle Holmes), the Senator (Michael Corbett), the Nurse (Allison Lind), the College Boy (Bretten M. Popiel), the Soldier (Cesar Cipriano), the Young Wife (Sarah Randall Hunt), the Husband (Corey Rieger), the Young Thing (Kevin Corsini), the Writer (Joe Hernandez-Kolski), and the Actress (Tal Fox). And LaChiusa has added some interludes with entertainers, and plays some games with the time frame, which extends from World War II to the Sixties, with one scene set on the sinking Titanic.
The biggest problem seems to be an uncertainty of tone, but whether this is due to LaChiusa or the production is hard to say. Some scenes are intimate, while others are executed with an almost music hall style (one broadly plays out like a silent movie). The choreography by actor Popiel doesn’t seem to have much relation to the characters, and at times it almost seems like an interruption. The actors seem talented enough, but the tone set by director Richard Van Slyke limits their possibilities.
LaChiusa’s music has been described as “esoteric” and it tends to be unmelodic. The costumes by Michael Mullen are a mixed bag: some are marvelous period pieces, while others, like the military uniforms, are an inauthentic mishmash.
The Chromolume Theatre at the Attic, 5429 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; (323) 205-1617 or www.crtheatre.com. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.