Aptly, one enters the Edison Theatre for “Love, Bukowski” from the alley. Danila Korogodsky’s stark set, strewn with beer bottles, corroded pipes overhead, thrusts itself into the senses. In voice-over, Charles Bukowski’s gritty rasp mingles with audience gab and infiltrating cast members. Downstage, onstage viewers surround a selfless working toilet. Perched on its tank in his shorts is actor John Short, one authorial surrogate out of the slew to come.
A door slam and a projected title cue the opening poem, “This Dog,” and retreat is futile. Also, unthinkable -- this exceptional Cal Rep encomium from artistic director Joanne Gordon and her inspired forces welds shards of Bukowski’s matchless, scabrous canon into a vivid convocation with the late, great poet deviate’s soul.
Created with full archival input from Bukowski’s widow, Linda, “Love, Bukowski” (like Gordon’s 1990 Los Angeles Theater Center outing, “Short Hairs & Long Shots”) sifts Bukowski’s vast, graphic output for its humanity. Gordon lands varied techniques, from burlesque to Bauhaus to radio play, with total control. Her vision propels designers Korogodsky, Mark Abel (sound), Joan Goodspeed (costumes) and Nick Solyom (lighting) toward a seamless scheme of breathtaking impact.
Accordingly, the actors fuse diverse talents to the hysterical, harrowing ethos without losing individuality. For example, “The Star,” where Mark Frankos’ arch narration and Sarah Goldblatt’s sound effects accent the clash of Richard Holden’s Hollywood victim and Marjo-Riikka Makela’s gymnastic parasite.
Short’s bemused “KaaKaa and Other Immolations” typifies the group’s grasp of tone and text, the post-coital shower of Mark Piatelli and Kree Fieldsa demonstrate their fearless spontaneity. Shaunte Caraballo, Gary Grossman and Gavin Hawk complete an indelible ensemble.
Where: Edison Theatre, 213 E. Broadway, Long Beach
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 2 p.m. Sat. Oct. 15, only
Ends: Oct. 15
Contact: (562) 985-5526
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes