Missed Connections in Chilling ‘Farmyard’
“Everyone sees what the Lord gives them to see,” says Sepp, a hired farm hand, to the farmer’s nearly-blind little girl, Beppi, in Franz Xaver Kroetz’s “The Farmyard.” What sounds, on paper, like a peculiarly Christian morale boost emerges, with actor Rick Dean as Sepp, as an awful foreshadowing. Faith versus doom, and entropy’s final victory: This is Kroetz’s subject, and it’s distinctly well understood in Maria Mileaf’s production at the Complex in Hollywood.
It is typical of Kroetz that Sepp takes Beppi (Lili Barsha) to the circus, then for a ride on his motorcycle, and then rapes her. Even this one escape from farmyard drudgery, a hapless mother (Myriam Tubert, whose thick accent actually helps) and a dogmatic father (Webster Williams, too urbane) leads to something worse. As in “Through the Leaves,” Kroetz’s family members are so slotted into roles that when real pain comes along, they can’t make connections.
They would have to break down the wall between them in order to do that, and Neil Patel’s set of numbered farm stalls and Brenda Berry’s prison-like lights tell us this won’t happen. The failure to relate speaks most powerfully through Dean and Barsha, who play out this sad duet of the weak and savage with a truly disturbing calm.
“The Farmyard,” the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 22. $12; (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Double Bill Tackles the Shades of War
War, viewed far from the battlefield, is either right or wrong. The country divides into opposing camps, as it did during the Persian Gulf War. Viewed at the front lines, war becomes a phenomenon of shades. The Alliance Repertory Company’s wartime one-acts, Robert Spera and Sherman Howard’s “Tracks,” and director Stephen Sealy’s anthology “The War Companion,” are interested in the shades, not the divisions.
What divides the two works, however, is that “War Companion” tends to be a wan survey of emotions and reflections from actual American veterans, while “Tracks” puts warfare in our faces as few one-acts do.
Spera and Howard drop two soldiers, Jake (Scott Allan Campbell) and Mickey (Ben Meyerson), into a minefield during a Central American war in the near future. This is sobering enough, for as the Soviet empire is imploding, Spera and Howard suggest that we still have our own imperial stumblings to deal with.
That’s in the subtext. On the surface, the grunts here find themselves in a world halfway between Samuel Beckett and “Full Metal Jacket,” a comic-horrific dance of death in which every step is a lifetime, every joke may be your last. Elkanah J. Burns directs with punishing commitment to the material, and Campbell and Meyerson pack the gear magnificently.
“War Companion,” by contrast, gives us war as we read it in the papers, which is where Sealy pulled most of his monologues. His male-female ensemble reflects the egalitarian nature of U.S. forces in the Gulf, but the anthology leans too heavily toward the most recent wars and not nearly enough from the Civil War or World War I--ironically, the two wars that produced most of America’s great wartime literature.
“Tracks” and “The War Companion,” Alliance Repertory Theatre, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 14. $15; (818) 566-7935. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
‘Suspension’: Exercise in Self-Consciousness
Private art, such as some of John Cage’s music or Chris Marker’s films, can be a fine thing: Their subversion of “marketplace” art, in fact, lends them a public force. Very private art, like writer-director Ophir Finkelthal’s “Suspension in Moments” at Stages in Hollywood, is best for the workroom.
On the stage, Finkelthal’s self-consciously poetic scene fragments soon become arch postgraduate exercises (Finkelthal, now at USC, hails from Yale). Appropriately, in the house that has served as Eugene Ionesco’s American base, “Suspension” dabbles in the absurd games men and women play with one another. Though Finkelthal has an eye and ear for actors (notably a wry Anthony Embeck and an ingratiating Shai Naer), he never gives them anything beneath the surface of the games and words.
“Suspension in Moments,” Stages, 1540 McCadden Place, Hollywood. Mondays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 9. $10; (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour.
‘Dory’ Still Backward After All These Years
Six years ago, colleague Don Shirley wrote that “Dory!,” Ellen Geer’s musical of the roller-coaster life of songwriter-singer Dory Previn, “is built backwards.”
The revival, at Topanga Canyon’s Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, is now retitled “Dory! A Musical Portrait,” suggesting a fuller, re-ordered evening.
Six years later, it’s still built backwards. Worse, according to the press material, it’s in “a new expanded version"--as in over 2 1/2 hours. That’s about one hour too long, especially for those with lower-back problems trying to stay comfortable on the Theatricum’s bleacher seating.
For the rest of us, the show is no less tortuous. We follow Dory (Geer, who looks and feels like Dory) ever-so-slowly back in time through schizophrenia-ridden days as a woman living with her child-self, Dot (Melora Marshall), pop-tune success and marital failure. Rod Arrants is the only strong voice, playing, among several other roles, Andre Previn (renamed Richard here).
The second act’s flatly declaimed bathos, involving Dory’s disturbed veteran father (George McDaniel) and ineffectual mother, comes too late, long after we’ve grasped this portrait of a woman divided, but in love with words.
Of course, the acts should be--with modification and heaps of cutting--reordered. Wondering why this wasn’t obvious to Geer and director Randal Hoey can occupy your thoughts as you wait for this seemingly endless Freudian bio-musical to call it a night.
“Dory! A Musical Portrait,” Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 7. $11; (213) 455-3723. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.
‘Lovers’ Just a Mess at Hollywood’s iGloo
Two white women putting on a performance piece called “Nigger Lovers”? We can just imagine the letters coming in on this one. . . .
Well, yes, it’s true. (To make it clear, the title is meant in the sense of John Lennon’s lyric, “Woman is the nigger of the world.”) It’s also true that Barbara Romain and Shelley Sachs’ verbal spew at iGloo in Hollywood isn’t worth writing letters about. Their wantonly careless vignettes about their romps from one male jerk to another are only good for lost weekends in the living room--which is just what we see on an adjacent TV set.
Inconceivably, this mess is directed by Reza Abdoh’s former partner, Mira-Lani Oglesby, though all it appears she did was turn on the lights on and tell everyone (including a cross-dressing dancer and a quiet fellow scribbling poetry) where to sit. She shouldn’t have turned the lights on.
“Nigger Lovers,” iGloo, 6543 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Ends Sept. 14. $10; (213) 483-6311. Running time: 1 hours, 10 minutes.