Poetry Deathmatch Cabaret
Reviewed by Dana Martin
Through January 28th
The rules are clear: write well or die. The Melrose Poetry Bureau delivers a delicious madcap mess of an evening, punctuated by whiskey, sex and intellect. Poetry Deathmatch Cabaret, a series of literary battles leading to an inevitably hyperbolic demise, makes for a sexy-satisfying evening at the Bootleg Theatre.
The ensemble is comprised of six poets: Bobby Gordon, Brian Sonia-Wallace, Nayeli Knudsen, Linda Ravenswood, Aman K. Batra and James Gangl. The action centers around the poets’ improvised texts, all of which are composed via typewriter. These relics of the writing process heighten the dramatic tension as poets manically pluck the keys, creating a cacophony of clicks, zings and dings. The poets create typed and original text inspired by audience prompts. The audience votes on the winner and the rest DIE.
While competition among the poets is fierce, it’s all in good fun. In addition to creating improvised poems onstage, each ensemble member performs a prepared piece of their own work. The performances are deeply personal and embody each poet’s individual voice and experience. Brian Sonia- Wallace is charming and affable as the event’s MC. The ladies dominated the evening, but the night ultimately belonged to the formidable Linda Ravensood. Erin Bridges provides sexy fun burlesque numbers throughout the evening, a welcome distraction from the poets’ toil.
Director Bobby Gordon has found a variety of ways to transform and heighten the game. Though most of the evening centers around frenzied typing, there’s never a dull moment. Original music by Dae Emerson and Higher Ground Sound set the appropriate tone for the night’s antics, including a whimsical, typewriter-inspired melody. Kirk Wilson’s simple lighting design served to blend the technical elements nicely.
Although everyone eventually dies, one thing is certain: this performance will give you life. The Melrose Poetry Bureau proves that poetry is powerful and accessible — a concise medium through which truth is made plain. The formation of words into meaning creates the potential to uplift, to teach, to transform and to entertain. So, put on your sexiest dress, prepare your best onomatopoeia, and make haste to the Bootleg. Bam.
Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through January 28th. bootlegtheatre.org. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.