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Sex as Gnawing Desire and Biting Satire

Theater review: 'Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man' is a poetic, comedic and strangely reassuring look at love.


COSTA MESA — "What we call love is more like a battle," Rhoda laments in "Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man," a play by Eve Ensler at the Costa Mesa Studio Gallery. But in this case, it's not so much the battle of the sexes as it is a monumental struggle with sex itself.

"Floating Rhoda," in its West Coast premiere, explores some of the vast, unmapped territory of human sexuality and the angels and monsters commonly conjured under the all-encompassing name of Love.

Men and women do battle side by side, in various combinations, against unnameable, untamable forces of desire.

With a biting sense of humor as its best weapon, this production wades into the dark waters of human relationships with only a few backward glances. Ensler's voice is by turns satiric, romantic, erotic and sentimental, and director Sue Hamilton leads boldly through the shifting terrain with an ear that is sensitive both to poetry and comedy. Although the climax threatens to swallow itself in teary happiness, generally Hamilton manages to navigate around the soggier moments.

Rhoda, played by doe-eyed Christina Maree, is a woman everyone loves, who yearns for intimacy but can't stand for anyone to get too close. Indeed, she has a double who shows up in her place whenever things get too dangerously personal. Rhoda suffers from "low self-image," among other things, and has objectified her own ample bosom as something apart from herself. Her breasts, and the essentially feminine part of herself that they represent, keep going off somewhere, figuratively and literally.


Rhoda's soul mate, Barn, played with bemused sensitivity by John D. Heffron, has a double, too, who embodies the violent part of himself that he keeps in check--most of the time. The doubles shadow the characters throughout the play, always ready to assume the place of reality, bringing the comforts and dangers of irresponsibility and disconnection.

Around Rhoda and Barn's convoluted courtship swirl the appetites and self-discoveries of Rhoda's admiring friend Terrace (Katie Lippa), Rhoda's ever-metamorphosing lover Coyote (Geoff Brooks) and the voracious Storm, commandingly played by Trace Turville.

"Floating Rhoda" makes a game attempt to examine the ways in which we sabotage and doom relationships that require honesty, courage and self-awareness. There are some enigmatic images about wings, which are at different times the mechanisms of death, liberation and loneliness. There also are a lot of very funny moments dealing with, among other things, therapies for unleashing the "Zeus energy" latent in the "warrior" male; the technical difficulties of same-sex partnering, and the names men sometimes give to what Lady Chatterly's lover would call their John Thomases.


Produced by a coalition of artists who call themselves "avatar," "Floating Rhoda" makes for a striking evening and lives up to the group's avowed goal of "combining elements of theater, music and art."

Christy Sumner's set--walls covered with crumpled brown paper--climbs to the ceiling. Paintings by Corinne Robinson decorate the space, figuring into the plot and echoing its themes.

Lighting designer James Iansiti has done wonders with a couple of dozen garage utility lamps, and Susan Fitz-Simon improvises live music that encompasses mournful, melodic riffs, Space Age droning and an effectively disturbing urban hum. The cumulative effect is strangely reassuring as it investigates who we are when we look into the mirror of love.


* "Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man," Costa Mesa Studio Gallery, 1011 Brioso St., Suite 106, Costa Mesa. Tonight through Sunday, 8 p.m. Ends Sunday. $10-$12. (714) 650-5481. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Opening April 4 at L.A.C.E in Los Angeles. Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m. through April 19.

Christina Maree: Rhoda

Di Burbano: Rhoda's stand-in

John D. Heffron: Barn

Sam Robinson: Barn's stand-in

Christopher Jaymes: the waiter

Trace Turville: Storm

Katie Lippa: Terrace

Geoff Brooks: Coyote

An avatar production of a play by Eve Ensler, directed by Sue Hamilton. Setting: Christy Sumner. Lights: James Iansiti. Sound: Susan Fitz-Simon. Art: Corinne Robinson.

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