The first thing you see when you walk into British musician David J's apartment in the historic Villa Carlotta in Franklin Village is a gigantic painted portrait of 1960s icon Edie Sedgwick perched on one wall. "I say hello to Edie every day," the musician wryly notes.
Andy Warhol's tragic muse is the inspiration for David J's theatrical production "Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick)," which plays at the REDCAT downtown through Sunday. As bass player and founding member of seminal '80s goth-rock art band Bauhaus and later Love and Rockets, David J, who has lived in the U.S. for 16 years, turned his dark vision toward the "Factory Girl" in a melancholic song suite he originally created in 2008.
"I started out writing one song but it was impossible to capture Edie's life in three minutes, so I wrote another, then another, and I realized I had the basis for something more," he says. "I always felt that I have been heading to this more theatrical cross-fertilization with the music, but even going back to Bauhaus we were always pretty theatrical."
"Silver for Gold" is no straightforward bio piece. As written and directed by David J, it's a wildly creative reinterpretation of the ephemeral party girl whose star flamed brightly in the epicenter of the mid-'60s New York art, music and underground film scene -- and then flamed out just as quickly in a haze of fame and drugs. It imagines Sedgwick in the guise of a mythic archetype as a modern-day Persephone who is descending into the Hades of Warhol's renowned studio, the Factory. Her room at the Chelsea Hotel, then, becomes as a fog-enshrouded purgatory.
A horse-headed healer (played by actor James Duval) guides Edie to eventual transcendence. Interwoven is David J's atmospheric song cycle, which he will play live with a four-piece band. With nods to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan, the songs offer a biting musical commentary to Sedgwick's life, moving from sad and wistful to wildly psychedelic as her star dims.
"I do have a fascination for the darker side of life," muses the gently spoken musician, who has also just released his first solo album in eight years, "Not Long for This World," about celebrity and mortality. "But there is something about the tragic, glamorous female image I find particularly riveting. I've been drawn to Edie ever since I saw a picture of her at an Andy Warhol exhibit in London when I was 11. I think her talent and her legacy was to be a quintessential muse."
Warhol is represented on stage by MC THIS (a.k.a. Justin Hammond), who updates the artist and his love of the created image utilizing real historical footage (including rarely seen Warhol footage, such as a Bob Dylan screen test from 1965) with real-time video shot on stage.
"He has this rig that he straps himself into with cameras and video synthesizers that can film and manipulate images at the same time. He can blow it up, change the color and form these incredible silhouettes. It's dazzling stuff," says David J. "I think Warhol would have loved it."
"David is a multitalented artist and this is really a groundbreaking production," says Mark Murphy, executive director at REDCAT. "It goes beyond the traditional theatrical structure. It cleverly blends text with image and sound to create an almost cinematic landscape."
Taking center stage as the tragic heroine is actress Darcy Fowers, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Sedgwick.
"This is really a roller coaster of a performance," says Fowers on the phone between rehearsals. "David takes you from her highs to her lows at a pretty rapid pace, which I think is how she really lived."
"So many stories just zoom in on her days at the Factory, but David really dug a lot deeper and has captured her life so beautifully," she continues. "If you don't know anything about Edie before, you will definitely want to learn more about her when you see this."
Where: REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A.
When: Nov. 30 thru Dec. 4, see website for times.
Price: $20-$25 ($16-$20 students)
Info: (213) 237-2800; http://www.redcat.org