You gotta have high expectations when "sex,""death" and "clown" are the three words used to lure you into seeing theatre. Heck, here is a full quote: "Succubae, princesses and clowns collide in an entertaining feast for the senses. Unknown Theatre and Immanence Theatre Artists pull out all the stops to bring you intoxicating adaptations of three classic French fables for a modern world. Join us for an evening of sex, death and clown."
Fables Du Theatre, directed by Chris Clovis (artistic director, Unknown Theatre) and written by Brenda Varda (member, Immanence Theatre) and Marva Lewis (artistic director, Immanence Theatre), is quite a show.... It is also quite a sight to behold and to experience.
Yes, that's the best I can come up with, and my summary is good and bad, equally. This show left me talking and talking and at the same time not knowing what to say. If that, in and of itself, sounds like an intriguing response to a piece of theatre, then get your shoes on and run to the theatre now!
The night begins before "curtain up" in the lobby of the Unknown Theatre. I’m talking about a little pre-show, if you will. There are a handful of fun acts, all of which set the mood and provide a little foreshadowing of the night ahead of you. Arrive twenty minutes before the show starts to experience it.
Once the show has officially begun, "The Stage Coffeehouse (In Another Part of the World)" tells the story of two patrons attempting a doomed romance. That fable is followed by "Xeera's Night (In Another "Playhouse")," in which a succubus falls in love with her victim (it doesn't turn out well). Finally, "The Spoiled Child (In a Place Just Like This One)" is about a girl who wants the moon and uses some interesting tactics to acquire it. I am whizzing through these Fable scenarios because they are secondary (to say the least) to what is going on during this night of theatre. The fables seem to provide merely a framework or an excuse to perform the piece they are really interested in putting out there: a show about breaking theatre conventions.
Throughout the night, the story telling is consistently interrupted by any number of things. There are, among other interruptions, a critic in the audience, a drunk actor coming in late, the artistic directors of both theatres called out by name to talk to the audience or their actors. The interruptions alone show that French fable-telling is not the goal of the evening. Immanence Theatre is known for its guerilla theatre tactics, and their goal is to challenge preconceptions of theatre and space. Unknown Theatre values creative dreaming, and they have plans to make theatre necessary for and integral within peoples lives. Fables Du Theatre reflects the values of these companies and provides a little insight into the choices made.
This night of theater stimulates your senses. The action happens in front, behind and all around you. As an audience member, you are pulled in and out of the action. You will be surprised (if I haven't given too much away), confused, and intrigued by the evening. You will wonder if you are "getting it," and if you are focusing on the right things. You will, inevitably, ponder the point of it all. The goal of everyone involved seems to be doing things the unconventional way, and they succeed in that. There are amazing costumes by Diana Wyenn and the lighting was gorgeous. The production value is admirable for a small theatre in Hollywood! Last but not least, this show has an ensemble of 14 very committed and, I believe, talented actors. No need to draw attention to any one individual because this is an ensemble piece and the ensemble is very strong.
Without hesitation, I would recommend this experience to anyone without much theatre-going experience, or to those of you who have seen limited types of theatre. Theatre novices, head on over. If you are a theatre lover, perhaps a transplant from a more savvy theatre town, you have probably already seen this show and it blew your mind 10 years ago. It won't blow your mind this time around. This collaboration doesn't bring anything new to the stage as a whole, but it does provide a rare theatre experience in Los Angeles, the land of film and television and generally boring theatre. It would have been a more successful piece if those involved had been more selective about the conventions they broke (not everything can be done in one piece of theatre! Be selective!) and had not forgotten the stories being told.
Nonetheless, the effort was grand and the commitment was great. Those two things are reason enough to give this piece and these two theatre companies a look.
Now through Sept. 27, Thursdays - Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 6 p.m. Tickets are $18 online, $24 by phone or at the door.
Unknown Theatre, 1110 Seward St., Hollywood