Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who is Lulu?

"Who is Lulu?" asks an article in today's Hartford Courant. The article by Frank Rizzo, "Yale Rep's Searing Study In Eroticism Isn't For The Timid," begins:
The poster in front of the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven stops the passerby dead in his tracks, but it isn't the one that features feminine flesh and fruit - the image that caused a stir last week when newspapers refused to run ads featuring that photo.

This image simply asks in large, in-your-face typography: "Who Is Lulu?"

Who indeed?

Not that most people, save a German theater major or a silent movie buff, would have any idea.

"Lulu" is the central character created by turn-of-the-last-century German playwright Frank Wedekind, who is having a banner year after a century of neglect. The hip, rock Broadway musical "Spring Awakening," another of his plays, has its own provocative subject of adolescent sexual angst.

But "Lulu" makes ""Spring Awakening" seem like child's play.

"Lulu" is the collective title of the merging of two of Wedekind's plays, "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box," written over 10 years. The works center on a charismatic female character, the object of all men's affections - not to mention lust, perversion, sadism and savagery.

His expressionistic plays - and "Lulu" is a prime example - expose bourgeois morality for all its absurdity and hypocrisy. "Lulu" focuses on the 18-year-old who destroys a series of males "through her uninhibited but essentially innocent enjoyment of sex," according to theater scholar Trevor R. Griffiths.

There have been many artists who sought to tame Wedekind's wild "Lulu." The play was banned (it was only produced once in Wedekind's lifetime, at a private showing in 1905), emerging in 1928, when it became a now-celebrated German silent film, "Pandora's Box," directed by G.W. Pabst. The film starred American actress Louise Brooks, who gave an extraordinarily fresh and vivid performance. (A new Criterion Collection DVD with extras is out.)

An Alban Berg opera version was produced in the '30s. Other rare stage productions include one presented by Lee Brauer at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980; another in 1999 with an adaptation by English playwright Peter Barnes; and another in London in 2001, starring Anna Friel.
I wish I could be there. If you live in the Hartford area, GO SEE THIS PLAY! And if you do, please post a report.

To learn more about "Lulu" and to see pictures from the Yale Rep production, go to "Lulu" runs Friday through April 21 at the Yale Repertory Theater, York and Chapel streets, New Haven. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. There is an 8 p.m. performance this Sunday. Matinees at 2 will be held on April 7, 11, 14 and 21. Tickets are $35 to $55. Tickets and information 203-432-1234

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