Clever Words Can't Disguise 'Curtsies'

Playwright Erik Ehn is an obviously gifted wordsmith, one whose nonlinear, hallucinatory imagery can alternately amuse and disturb.

Unfortunately, Ehn puts his propulsively poetic talents to bad service in "Erotic Curtsies," presented by Bottom's Dream and Sun & Moon Press at the Ivy Substation. Part of a commissioned 12-play cycle, the four short works that make up the program shatter the line separating art from pornography--in word only, not in simulated deed. The staging is constrained, and the actors remain clothed at all times. Still, the results are shocking. Of course, so is a random street assault.

The first and third offerings, "Lingerie: Items From the Loose Bin," which recounts a psychedelic sexual revel in a junkyard filled with vats of melting ice cream, and "Leda," a contemporary take on the Greek legend, are the easiest to take.

"Icarus," in which a father and son have sex in an airplane bathroom, is disgustingly gratuitous. "Three Day Jesus," which concerns the orgiastic frenzies and subsequent sexual torture of the 13-year-old Christ, is so rank it is almost intolerable.

Director James Martin and his cast pour their considerable energies into Ehn's dramatic void, driving home the dark power of the words. A scientist gone mad in the laboratory of language, Ehn has released a malignant spore into the atmosphere that, once inhaled, is difficult to expel from the soul.

* "Erotic Curtsies," Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends April 11. $15. (310) 231-0446. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 7, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 8 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction TV review--A review in Monday's Calendar of PBS' Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ" misstated one of the three languages Jesus is thought to have spoken. The review should have stated Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek.
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