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Mattsun Is Tripping the Light 'Fantastiskt'

November 26, 1999|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

The world premiere of a lost play by Lars Mattsun, "Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk" at Theatre of NOTE, is a fun but sometimes one-note escapade that revolves around a crucial surprise. Read between the lines for more information.

Perennially obscure, Mattsun was a brilliant but misunderstood Swedish playwright whose career was eclipsed by his contemporary August Strindberg, who many scholars believe plagiarized Mattsun freely in his own work. A prominent goose herder as well as writer, Mattsun wrote "Resa" during his famous Fruit Period. (And if you buy that, there's some oceanfront property in Mojave you should see.)

When he learned of the manuscript's discovery, Mattsun enthusiast Todd Merrill rushed to Sweden to secure the rights to the piece, which he has directed--with the ample "assistance" of Matt Almos--in this world premiere.

But Merrill, who also serves as translator and choreographer, isn't content to sit idly by while we make of Mattsun what we will. Audience members are issued headsets upon entering the theater, so that Merrill can "annotate" the proceedings with his whispered commentary so no obscure references are missed. Oh, be advised that this is a technically ambitious show, so expect some startling effects--or not.

The plot charts the surreal journey of Phillip (Victor Ortado), a tortured artist on the path to self-knowledge. Accompanying Phillip through a hostile dreamscape is a prancing Child (Laura Otis), who escorts Phillip to see such archetypal figures as the Candlemaker (Carolyn Almos), the General (Katharine Noon), the Matador (Jon Beauregard) and the Cat (Joel Marshall). Awaking from his epiphany, Phillip poisons his fiancee (Selina Smith) but learns--as did Mattsun on the goose farm--that art is a fickle master.

Unfortunately, on the evening this reviewer attended, a few recalcitrant cast members deliberately sabotaged Merrill's efforts, causing an embarrassing scene. Tensions are obviously running high backstage--but don't miss this opportunity to experience the glory that is Mattsun. It may be your only chance.

*

* "Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Mondays-Tuesdays, 9 p.m. Ends Dec. 14. $10. (323) 856-8611. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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