Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lulu in NY Fringe Fest



Wow, did anyone see the absolutely fabulous review by Jason Zinoman which Lulu recieved in this past Saturday's New York Times ? I am so excitied about seeing this production when it comes to the Victoria Theater in San Francisco in a few weeks. Here is an excerpt from the article.
The Silent Theater Company of Chicago is dedicated to the idea that the theater doesn't need the spoken word, which it proves with panache in its first production, Lulu, an ingeniously staged version of the Louise Brooks 1929 silent film Pandora's Box.

Stylishly directed by Tonika Todorova, this dreamlike play without words is about an insatiable hedonist who leaves death in her tracks. It opens with a wild freak show - peopled by a bearded lady, a dwarf and a man on stilts - dressed and lighted in a noirishly severe black and white, like the cover of a 1920's scandal sheet burst to life. Last to enter is the knockout showgirl Lulu (Kyla Louise Webb), a good-time girl who is clearly bad news.

In the seasoned hands of Ms. Brooks - whose black bob, imitated here, may be the most famous haircut in film history - the role inspired oceans of critical drooling. Kenneth Tynan once wrote that she was "the only star actress I can imagine either being enslaved by or wanting to enslave."

The charismatic Ms. Webb, who wears a blankly innocent expression, letting her jitterbugging body do the seducing, may not bring on such dark thoughts, but her pursuit of unbridled pleasure is so persuasive that you are sure that after the show she will seduce the rest of the cast members and then break all their hearts.

Backed by the moody piano of Isaiah Robinson, this coolly stylized presentation, which could benefit from a few more tech rehearsals, communicates a remarkable amount of plot - in a few crisply designed scenes that slip back and forth between erotic and macabre.

The glamorous Lulu is a reminder of how effective the great silent performers were in their ability to cut directly to the heart of a scene, something Billy the Mime also accomplishes superbly. If you don't have the crutch of language, you need to be able to tell a story with discipline and clarity, and these wordless artists developed a vocabulary every bit as articulate as that of any playwright in the Fringe. They are particularly eloquent with comedy and horror, two areas in which the theater often lags behind film. When was the last play you saw that was really scary or made you explode in belly laughs?

Unlike talking actors, who generally shun the grand gesture as hammy, these silent performers are willing to go for the jugular. They treat their limitation in speech as an opportunity to exploit the rest of their repertory, which may be the reason that their shows seem bolder, faster and meaner than any others I saw this week. Silence, in an odd way, has liberated them.

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