The tango began as a show of bravado between men, a dancing duel. Springing out of the depths of Argentina's brothels, it developed into a sensual entanglement between a woman and a man.
Fringe Productions' presentation of Maria Irene Fornes' early (1963) dark comedy "Tango Palace," at the Oliverian Theatre, lacks the passion of the tango or the sustained dynamics of a struggle.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 24, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 15 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
"Tango Palace"--The phone number for reservations for the play "Tango Palace" is (323) 654-4631. The number was omitted from the review in Friday's Calendar. The correct name for the play's producer is National Fringe Productions.
The palace in question is a dark room with an exotic array of objects, where an androgynous clown named Isidore (Kevin Hincker) waits for an earnest youth, Leopold (Nicholas Gonzalez), to emerge from a canvas bag.
Isidore spews out knowledge that is printed magically on cards. He demands that Leopold memorize them. Yet Leopold rebels, hurtling them both toward violence and the unknown.
There is a brief instant when Isidore essays a tango, but the result is amateurish. It's not clear if that's intentional.
Hincker doesn't possess the sly sexuality that would take advantage of his vague gender. In his loose, white poet shirt under a dark blue kimono, he is more a foppish joker than a vaguely gendered subversive. Against the flat, stolid honesty of Gonzalez's Leopold, this approach chains this play down, preventing it from soaring in our imaginations.
Mary Tomlinson, along with Peter Gref, has designed a fanciful set, especially Isidore's throne. As director, Tomlinson sets a good pace, but she doesn't achieve an atmosphere of danger, of two entities grappling at a sensual edge of existence until the final sigh of realization brings relief.
* "Tango Palace," Oliverian Theatre, 2609 Hyperion Ave. (above Zen Sushi), Silver Lake. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends May 9. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.