'Metaluna' Offers Vaudeville With a Vivid Warp

Joe Janes takes a wisp of a plot, twists it and piles upon images and scenes that suspend linear logic. He creates an interesting merging of performance art and theater that is zestfully played with great over-the-top style in the Zoo District production of "Metaluna and the Amazing Science of the Mind Revue," at Art Share.

Looking like the Mad Hatter in West Hollywood, Dr. Carlton Twist (Patrick Towne) consults with Sigmund Freud (Jon Kellam) about penis envy, vaginal terror and "edible" syndromes when they decide to find "sane crazy people" to experiment on. Choosing a Dada performance troupe, they whisk them away to Metaluna, a small town in Indiana where the mayor (Adam Bitterman) is running for reelection against his daughter (Milly Gallagher), liquor is no longer legal and the women for the first time have the vote.

The Dadaist performances and the encounters between these odd Europeans and the locals make up what may be called a plot. Twist's brain experiments aside, this isn't really a mad doctor in Middle America piece; it's Janes playing with our brains in his odd splicing and collaging of scenes and images.

A tender scene between an estranged invalid mother and son breaks inexplicably into a large, exuberant production number only to suddenly revert back. The cigar-smoking, men's tux-wearing German, Marlena (Gleason Bauer), seduces the nerdy librarian Rupert (Rob Farrior) and dances an overtly sexual tango with mutual gropings as the rest of the cast adds a cacophony of controlled chaos.

Director Kate Hendrickson gives this wild experiment meaning and thrust, never allowing it for a moment to be trite or boring. She throws us into a wild whirlwind pacing, well choreographed by Brian Frette with live music and sound effects under the direction of Jef Bek. Megan Hanna's costumes add visual lunacy.

It's vaudeville with an avant-garde warping and intellectual sexual innuendoes galore.


* "Metaluna and the Amazing Science of the Mind Revue," Art Share, 801 E. 4th Place, downtown Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends June 13. $10. (213) 769-5674. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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