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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
by Laura Hitchcock
The Evidence Room gets a jump start on Hallowe'en with Hollywood Burning, the first in its trilogy of original plays about Hollywood.
Their season coincides with Edgefest 2002, Los Angeles' fourth Edge of the World Theatre Festival which will present over 60 productions, and the Mark Taper Forum's 14th annual New Work Festival, where 14 plays in development by established and emerging writers are on view. The Evidence Room has commissioned three playwrights, Justin Tanner, Peter J. Nieves and Hollywood Burning's author, Michael Sargent, to explore LA theatre's opposite number, the film industry.
Sargent scans its lurid underbelly in a 90-minute satire of the surreal homoerotic work of Kenneth Anger (Scorpio Rising). He's faithful to his source. The work is titillating and reeks of rebel energy. Sargent hints that there may be a satanic power in the hands of Kenneth Angry who lives in a medium-level castle in Hollywood with Puck, a boy toy who works at Macdonalds and runs too fast for Kenneth to capture.
Enter LA Joe and Nita, former superstars straight out of the '60s, with long hair, feathers, debt and a willingness to make that one last movie for Kenneth in exchange for money. Angry dreams of making a movie about pseudo-necromancer Alastair Crowley, a dream he shares with the real life Anger. There's lots of nudity, pseudo-sex, prancing, posing, and dancing a la Jules Feiffer's Dance of Spring.
The big difference between Sargent's play and the underground films is that Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol were real rebels. They may not have had anything to say but they were serious about saying it. In the hands of Sargent, who also directed, the work is mechanically sexy, it's satiric without wit, it's comedy without humor, it glides puckishly on the surface without breaking the ice.
The play is driven by the laser-sharp energy of Tom Fitzpatrick as Kenneth Angry. Cold as the corners of hell, he burns like dry ice. Over the top but perfectly controlled, Fitzpatrick turns in an impeccable performance. Jemison Haase demonstrates a real flair for comedy as Puck. Stunning Liz Davies plays Nita with a curious accent, sometimes Southern, sometimes Baja Silver Lake. Charlie Santore looks like the kind of lanky blank Western hero that real superstars like Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood brought to life. Sargent's direction doesn't give much help to his superstars who are written as a hapless pair.
The excellent lighting design of Anne Militello and Lisa D. Katz flickers like silent screen images during the sex scenes. Jason Adams & Erik Hanson's scenic desigin captures the Gothic mansions of such 1920s stars as Valentino and Murillo. Ann Closs-Farley's costumes have authentic humor.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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