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Two By The Proboscis Theatre Company: Bloody Beautiful and Strap-On

Hollywood Fringe Festival 2016

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One of the high points for me in Fringe 2015 was the Proboscis Theatre Company’s La La La Strada! An investigation of the creative process, using the making of Fellini’s classic film La Strada as the focal point. This year they offered two productions…


BLOODY BEAUTIFUL

There are two very interesting tales in Bloody Beautiful; one is a straight forward bio of Elizabeth Báthory, the 16th century Hungarian countess, who tortured and murdered perhaps as many as 650 women and girls.

ericaflr.jpgIn being drawn to this incredible tale Erica Flor senses the same promise that has intrigued a wide variety of creative souls from novelist Andrei Codrescu to the action figure manufacturers of McFarlane Toys.

But another story is contending for focus here, this is a psychological thriller involving an actress working on the role of Báthory who in her intense preparations loses grip on her own center and spirals downward into a murky mindset where the distinction between artist and role is erased.

Both are strong stories vying to take center stage much, unfortunately, to the determent of the work.

Flor is an actress of talent, and director Jeff Mills is a sure and skilled hand, still they cannot affect a seamless joining between the separate sections; halves which are in essence matter and anti-matter.

There is, even, a quote in the play, which touches on the problem: “In theatre the blood is ketchup, in art the blood is blood.”
Flor has not found the means of mixing the ketchup and blood of her piece.

Interestingly, there was one portion of her show in which the actress on stage summoned up memories of the Santa Barbara shootings and of having known, both, the killer and one of his victims. Flor actually was a student at Santa Barbara at the time of the campus shootings and did know both a victim and the murderer.

sribbon.jpgHere is a fusion between artist and performance that does meld into one of the most vivid moments in the play. It remains for Flor to decide how she will proceed with the project, if at all, and it is my hope she does.

The play itself I would give a Bronze to, but this seems somehow a bit unfair considering that the play falters from being overburdened by potential.

So with that in mind, and in consideration of a valiant effort on the part of a talented actress the call is: SILVER


 

STRAP-ON

The second offering by the Proboscis Theatre Company opens with a teasingly erotic dance between Madelyn Rose and Erica Flor. That the dance has choreography evocative of a trust exercise, while Flor is wearing a strap-on dildo serves nicely as foreshadowing.

Jointly written by Rose, Flor and director Jeff Mills this piece has advantages in its development.

strpon.jpgFirst it is based on actual events, so a sequence was established giving Rose, Flor and Mills a firm foundation from which to begin working.

Secondly those events lent themselves too easily to artistic adaptation.

Think M. Butterfly meets Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

Then add a big dildo.

Structure is the killer. If not suitably arranged it can impede or imprison all other creative efforts.

This was the impediment frustrating Bloody Beautiful.

But without that hindrance here, Flor and Mills, under Mills’ direction, are free to develop characterizations and relationships and they do that excellently.

The story is so bizarre that it could only be fact-based.

But as always, whenever a story revolves around the involvement of two individuals, even the facts in a “fact-based” case will be called into question.

What can be stated with certainty is that two students at the University of Chester in Britain were in a relationship which ended in criminal charges being filed, and one of them being sentenced to eight years in prison.

But what is in question is whether the relationship was a matter of deceitfulness or denial, self-deception or sensuality, sex play or rape. Could the pair have been intimately involved, with one of the women believing for the entire time her lover was a man?

Like entering the “House of Mirrors” at a carnival, the play consists of a multitude of reflections that unfold for us the two year relationship between the pair while shifting the action to the eventual court case resulting from their involvement. The actresses slip from one frame of reference to the other, from the court room to the bed room, putting it upon the audience to judge where the division between fact and fraud lies.

For this the theatre is the ideal forum being, in itself, an arena where illusion and pretense are the means to forge a truth from lies.
Rose and Flor flow the focus artfully, blurring what the audience believes they’re seeing until the certainty of which was the betrayed and which the betrayer is lost.

gold.jpgLike Rashomon, Strap-On succeeds in being disturbing.

For what the audience is left with is the disquieting suspicion that truth may only be a mirage when peering through the prism of others’ perception.

GOLD


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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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