Monday, October 3, 2016

Hex (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Tis the season...when the dead rise and powers of shadow call out to come dance under the pale moonlight.  Hex, the latest show from True Focus Theater and Cabaret, celebrates this with an odyssey into feminine power.

That sounds so simple, doesn't it?  I mean, the words are straightforward enough.  Their meaning, however, pulse with all sorts of possibilities...

Now, I am a Halloween person since childhood.  Going in, the subject matter seemed to be about witches, and that much certainly proved part of it.  But only part.  Many and varied among the All Hallows' Pantheon--usually in their most erotic forms--appeared on stage before show's end.  Vampires, werewolves, ghosts and demons were all there.  Nor were they alone.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
Widows singing of their loves lost at sea.  Earth goddess Demeter bringing winter to the world in the wake of her daughter's kidnapping.  A female version of Dr. Faustus seduced by an equally female Devil (or is she Death?).  These make up just a few of the vignettes enacted during the performance, the tone as varied as the source material.

For example, Little Red Riding Hood appeared with a chorus of werewolf girls, meeting eventually an older, more powerful she-wolf.  Flirtation leads to competition, with the chorus changing sides, and Little Red meeting a fate actually better than death when you think about it.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
Yet the same show portrays far more bestial she-wolves, fighting it out for the rank of Alpha, all in an impressive dance covering the stage.  The she-wolves in question, not incidentally, do not don ears or furry gloves or even fangs.  Frankly they have no need.  They become wolves in their minds, and we see that fact in how every part of their bodies move.

Likewise the same ensemble also gathers in a circle to invoke nature and its powers, the secrets of moon and season.

Soon after, a witch does the fearsome, bloody ritual pledging herself to darkness in return for the power to become a wolf.

Then there are the three witches whose nefarious dealings run afoul of a simple human error--one of them all too easily accepting local rumor as to who among the local girls is (or is not) a virgin.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
Yeah, that old chestnut!

Meanwhile, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" get re-imagined in a way that certainly startled (and enthralled) me!  Namely, as a surprisingly erotic dance/recital, in which the Raven herself may in fact be the ghost of the lost Lenore--or perhaps some malignant spirit taking her form!

Praise goes to the whole cast certainly--Cheryl Doyle, Caitlin Fowler, Deneen Melody, Marietta Melrose, Kat Nelson-Bergfeld, Alariza Nevarez, Emma Pauly, Sasha Snow, Ashley J. Woods--for maintaining a high overall quality, not least in remaining committed to the atmosphere of secret feminine powers in all their many avatars, from hilarious to sweet to dangerous and to deeply tragic.  But to Vanessa Cate as well as choreographers Melody and Melrose plus translator Pauly goes that extra bit of praise.  Because lots of folks explore the erotic that dwells along side the macabre.  Think of the number of erotic balls this time of year! Or the sexy undercurrents in such diverse horror films as Interview with the Vampire, Candyman or even the late, lamented Penny Dreadful.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
What impressed me most of all was how all this exploration of the spooky never lost its grip on the occult, the mysteries of secret knowledge, the dark mysticism at the undead heart of Halloween!  The truths here unveiled cannot help but prove as terrible as they are beautiful, as potentially deadly as they can be ecstatic.  And Hex never forgets that!  Which makes it all the more enticing, disturbing, wonderful...

Given the subject matter, one should not feel surprise at learning this performance features a lot of eroticism as well as nudity.  But I'm telling you ahead of time anyway.  Just in case.

Hex runs every Tuedsay night at 10pm until October 25, 2016 at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim (south of the NoHo sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.

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