Monday, January 21, 2019

Nude/Naked (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

This play's title seems odd doesn't it?  I mean, surely the two words are synonyms, i.e. words with identical meanings?  Well, no.  Actually, I doubt the existence of such words, since some nuance always sneaks in.  Case in point.  "Naked" feels slightly shocking, even licentious.  "Nude" on the other hand feels artistic, with a hint of the refined.  In theory this might make a pretty good distinction between the puerile and beautiful, between objectification and exploration.

Nude/Naked (written and directed by Paul Hoan Zeidler) focuses a photographer named Bennett Duquesne (Brion Johnson) and his daughter/model Addy (Sorel Carradine).  We start with Bennett leaning someone has been shot at the home he shares with his daughter, a friend of hers named Julian (Lucas Alfano).  The shooter is evidently her sometimes boyfriend, an edgy rich kid named Stevie (Stephen Tyler).

There's hardly any mystery about the shooting, save perhaps for a precise context.  However, that context is all important to the central story.  Bennett and Addy function as each others' muses, each dedicated to the raw power of their photography and the art they create.  In fact, they share a near-inability to explain their visual art.  After all, they express these truths without words not merely by choice but necessity.  He himself says several times "It is in the pictures."  People try to explain his photos, an attempt making him angry and her impatient.  All well and good, but now with a juicy crime story associated with them, and in the modern era of twitter and the internet, of social media wielding incredible power based on the most instant and surface judments--now their lives change.

Credit: Darrett Sanders
Central to all this remains how Addy has been posing nude for her father since she was thirteen.  His most famous (and best selling) book of photographs include some powerful and some disturbing photos like this.  One for example is of her wearing a Tibetan fertility mask and nothing else while doing ballet moves. 

In reading the above, the title's meaning is probably made a little clearer.  How does one view the fact of those photos?  Is it abuse?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Whatever your answer--what if you're wrong?  How can you be sure you are right?  Doesn't context matter?

And for the record, in the course of the play, the context eventually becomes crystal clear.  Yeah, that context matters.  A lot.

Credit: Darrett Sanders
But in another way, the context matters not at all.  As their attorney Hank (Jonathan E. Grey) tries desperately to make them see, the vultures have begun to circle. Addy does not want to give a statement about events that night.  As we learn, she has understandable reasons for that.  But without her statement, the DA's office is going to put as much pressure as possible on her to give one.  Like leaking juicy tidbits to the press, who of course run with a juicy story with hints of incest and child abuse as well as the wealthy maybe getting away with some vicious crime.

In between scenes, we hear a little of the cacophony soon surrounding them.  The wild rumors, the blase pronouncements, the fierce declarations of what is "really" going on based on rumor and few if any facts.  Important facts are even mentioned on stage but we hardly have time to digest them, to consider what they mean. 

Which doesn't excuse Addy's so-called friends revealing secrets about her.  Does it?

Credit: Darrett Sanders
Consider also a journalist  (Asia Lynn Pitts) from a major arts magazine who interviews father and daughter, almost immediately dwelling and delving into the most sensational details of these two.  Whatever else might be going on, she clearly approached her subjects with a pre-set opinion and agenda. 

Although, are her opinions correct?

The sad fact of this story is, hardly anyone cares about the truth (which proves much more complex than anyone seems to consider).  And to those who are not artists, or prove in the end to be mediocre artists, certainly decisions made purely in the service of art do seem insane.  But then again, is any decision pure?  What does that word mean, anyway?

So--a psychological mystery, an exploration of Art, examining how we gaze upon sexuality and women, coupled with real human drama.  Put it all together with a first rate cast.  A powerful two hours of theatre, valuable was well as compelling!

Nude/Naked plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays (except Feb. 3) at 4 p.m. until February 17, 2019 at the McCadden Place Theatre 1157 N. McCadden Place (one block north of Santa Monica Blvd, one block east of Highland)  Los Angeles, CA 90038.

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