THEATER REVIEW : Staging's Sharper Than Text in '7 Seals'


Ken Roht is a choreographer and performer for Reza Abdoh, whose large-scale performance pieces at Los Angeles Theatre Center and elsewhere almost always provoke strong passions.

Roht has created his own small-scale piece at Playwrights' Arena, "7 Seals and a Riding Monkey." Some of Roht's choreography here is indeed reminiscent of Abdoh productions--for example, a repeated image of a row of furious typists, counting out loud to themselves, lit spookily from below.

Also reminiscent of some of Abdoh's shows is the unintelligibility of some of the text and the disjointed quality of the imagery. A flyer describes the show as "a psychedelic multimedia musical, exploring interpretations of the Second Coming and resistance to our own divinity." While apocalyptic references and addiction talk do pop up periodically, anyone who saw "7 Seals" without analyzing the title or reading the flyer would have a hard time pinpointing its theme.

However, individual scenes and full-throttle performances do count for something. Every member of the cast of six has some striking moments, and the staging is much sharper than the text.

The music, directed and arranged by Curtis Heard, isn't as harsh as the soundscape heard at Abdoh's L.A. shows. There is actually some six-part harmony that sounds gentle and soothing. Could this be a sardonic nod to the seven years Roht spent in the Young Americans (according to his program bio)?

Ultimately, "7 Seals" is slight. In Abdoh's work, the spectacle is often unforgettable even when the text is murky. But after experiencing "7 Seals," its sensual rewards fade rather quickly into a big blur.

* "7 Seals and a Riding Monkey," Playwrights' Arena, 5262 W. Pico Blvd., Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends April 15. $15. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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