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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Without knowing anything about his past, you would believe Frank (Jon Beavers) had more than enough pain from the first moment he jerks violently around in front of the Headless Woman's booth in a circus sideshow. But he demands immersion in the lives of the twisted outcasts who populate what used to be called a freak show in the 1930s carnivals that brought a spurious magic to isolated small towns. Frank's desperate need is to find answers to the two family tragedies that warped his life.
In Lea Floden's Headless the mystery of what Frank's mother and grandmother did and why they did it threads through his passionate obsession with Net (Sally Saffioti), who creates the illusion described as the Headless Woman, a visual metaphor for the women in his family. His violent behavior indicates that he may very well have inherited their propensity, although in the stunning denouement the answer comes from Net's young daughter's violence by osmosis.
Floden has created a fascinating world inhabited by such characters as the Snake Woman, the Headless Woman and her children, the Fortune Teller and the Fat Man. Frank seems to find some consolation in seeing them as the physical manifestation of his own nightmares. They're contrasted with the bored narrow-minded citizens of Frank's bleak small town where they've pitched their tents.
Dan Bonnell's vivid staging catches the phantasmagoric edginess of these people as they swirl across the stage— attacking, re-grouping, wincing, threatening, making love. Laura Fine's set design, is striking, the natural colors evoking mid-western Dust Bowl towns.
The cast is headed by Jon Beavers, a towering young man who finds Frank's passion and whose voice is hoarse from shouting. Salli Saffioti is stunning as Net, the Headless Woman. Natalie Floyd makes an arresting young vamp as Lisa, the Snake Woman. Net's two children are small China, a psychic subject to fits, played with understated realism by Kaylin Stewart, and Crystal, the tormented teen-ager, given miserable helplessness by Lauren Clinton. Dean Gregory and Tony Pasqualini give diversity to a variety of roles, as does Patty Cornell, and, in particular, Laura Jane Salvato in the dual roles of the scarred Lena of the sideshow and Frank's Nanna.
Floden works the characters superstitions and obsessions into what could have been primarily a murder mystery laced with eroticism, expressing the colors that give extended facets to the world of everyday. Although the plot is complex, as befits a good murder mystery, keeping up with it sometimes takes energy away from absorbing the play. However, the lyric dramatic writing expresses it's theme: What actually happens doesn't really matter as much as how we felt about it.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
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