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Imaginative Staging Propels the Odyssey of 'George Sand'

October 09, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

German playwright Ginka Steinwachs' "George Sand: An Erotic Odyssey in Seven Tableaux" at City Garage proves that a spoonful of spicy staging helps the derivative intellectual content go down.

Possibly, the play's translators--Sue-Ellen Case, Jamie Owen Daniel and Katrin Sieg--found Steinwachs' elliptical, stream-of-self-consciousness style difficult to approximate in English. What is certain is that Steinwachs' penitentially turgid text, heavily edited for this production, is miraculously enlivened by Frederique Michel's imaginative and exacting staging. Under Michel's tutelage, what otherwise would have been an exercise in exasperation is deftly whipped into a bristling postmodernist fantasia, a triumph of craft over content.

Human nudes pose like alabaster statuary against the crimson velvet of Charles Duncombe Jr.'s bordello-like set. And, indeed, the acting style throughout is purposefully stiff. Often, performers speak in unison, their heads swiveling like finely programmed automata as they parrot their lines. The level of acting ranges from the inexpert to the sublime. In the title role, Vanessa Hopkins displays marvelous self-possession--even when aerobically cavorting in the nude. With her Mona Lisa smile and lissome physicality, Hopkins personifies passion, elegance and amused intellectual detachment--qualities only distantly echoed in the wasteland of Steinwachs' play.

*

* "George Sand: An Erotic Odyssey in Seven Tableaux," City Garage, 1340 1/2 4th St. (alley), Santa Monica. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5:30 p.m. Ends Nov. 1. $20. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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