Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lunatics and Actors (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Okay that warning is a little bit of a lie.  I'm going to spoil the show Lunatics & Actors as little as possible while writing this review.  My hope remains strong that audience members -- and this show deserves a great many such -- will come fresh to the experience and have their minds blown.

As mine was.

Honestly, I've never seen a single show from 4 Clowns I did not enjoy immensely, this one certainly not an exception.  More, no two of shows presented have resembled each other in the least, yet remained clearly the result of a similar point of view -- an exploration of the human condition eyes open to the pettiness and horror one may find therein, yet willing to laugh, to find hope, to ask questions rather than present answers, and forever to entertain while sharing all of the above.

Credit: Elena Flores
With luck, this comes across as the praise it is intended to be!

Stepping into the theatre to see this performance, one has a vivid yet not-easily-identified sense of place and time.  That odd disconnect nine times out of ten emerges from imprecision.  Here, one of those tenth times, it proves the exact opposite.  But even now I cannot tell precisely where we were, except itself.  Very much itself! Perhaps a dream, or an ersatz laboratory from another age, a steampunk asylum found in some alternate timeline.  All of the above and neither? 

Almost immediately we meet a Dr. Duchene (Thaddeus Shafer) who purports to have learned the mechanism of the human mind and emotion. Smiling in his antique garb and somehow fiercely precise way, the good (?) Doctor promises a demonstration. 

Credit: Elena Flores
Very soon we meet his assistants for the evening: Bon Bon (Tyler Bremer), Fifi (Alexis Jones) and Pepe (Andrew Aldredge). Assistants they prove, since they do in fact assist him, but one might well presume the three might also deserve the title "patients."

Might. Probably do. Then again I'm not completely sure Dr. Duchene is really a doctor.

Of his passion for this, his work, however we can have no doubt. Just as the truth of the emotions explored in the demonstration likewise leave little room for doubt. Ironic that--since every person on stage is an actor, which brings up the title. What after all is a Lunatic, really? What for that matter is an Actor? Is there a difference? Should there be? Who decides? 

Again, I don't want to spoil the performance, but I can promise a intriguing odyssey on many levels -- some emotional, others artistic (along with one of the most interesting performances of Hamlet you're ever likely to see) and many philosophical. Philosophy such as metaphysics, as well as epistemology, and yes, ethics. All of it startling, sometimes chilling, very often funny, frequently disturbing and for nearly every single second compelling. 

Lunatics and Actors by David Bridel, directed by Jeremy Aluma, plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through May 28, 2016 at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, 1238 W. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

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