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Alternate visions of 'Don Quixote'

June 17, 2005|David C. Nichols;F. Kathleen Foley;Rob Kendt

"Being dead, Don Quixote could no longer speak. Being born into and part of a male world, she had no speech of her own. All she could do was read male texts, which weren't hers."

That epigraph cements the point of "Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream" at City Garage. It cannot convey the emblematic perversity with which director-adaptor Frederique Michel, production designer Charles A. Duncombe and an amazing cast realize the 1986 novel by Kathy Acker.

The late Acker's scabrous post-feminist crib from Cervantes is a profanity-drenched phylum unto itself. Multiple influences, William S. Burroughs being only the most obvious, orbit about "Don Quxote's" title abortion-seeker (Sophia Marzocchi). Acker pulls this bipolar surrogate into a picaresque, politically questioning head trip, analogous to the paintings of Sherrie Levine.

Under Michel's assured direction, the players show seamless commitment. Marzocchi is a lithe, enigmatic discovery with the arcane beauty of a Roman deity. The riveting Justin Davanzo casually enters his Hobbesian debate with David E. Frank's tickling Nixon wearing only periwig and boots. Stephen Pocock becomes an imposing Angel of Death by simply standing before the wings adorning one of the set's trees. Juni Bucher and Christie D'Amore inhabit their pansexual archetypes with gusto, and Maureen Byrnes deftly passes off the polymorphous narrative viewpoint.

Duncombe's evocative decor suggests Levine having at Joseph Cornell's id, while Josephine Poinsot's costumes trace Jean Paul Gaultier details onto Jean Cocteau doodles. True, Michel's adaptation is faithful to a fault. Acker's cascading polemic and graphic poetry risks static repetition in the flesh. Yet, though "Don Quixote" needs either further distillation or an intermission, audiences up for provocative theater of ideas will find its adults-only dreamscape hypnotic.

-- David C. Nichols

"Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream," City Garage, 1340 1/2 4th St. (alley), Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30 p.m. Sundays. No performances July 14-31. Ends Aug. 28. Adult audiences. $20. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 2 hours.

*

Grace illuminates 'Midnight Weary'

"Sunshine for a Midnight Weary," presented by EMBODI Entertainment at the Inglewood Playhouse, is a fine opportunity to see a dedicated acting ensemble ply its craft. Director Angela Matemotja and her fellow performers infuse November Dawn's fiercely poetical drama with affecting grace and candor.

Largely made up of loosely linked monologues, the play looks at the travails women of color confront in their daily lives. Their yearning for light and meaning is a blatant connecting theme (a bit ironic, considering that the gloomy lighting keeps the actresses in near-darkness for much of the time).

The subject matter is freewheeling, to say the least. Among the characters, we meet a lesbian confronting the raw hatred of the "hetero world," a junkie trapped in the downward spiral of her addiction, and several abused women whose anger has reached critical mass.

There's rage aplenty to be found in this desultory mix, but there's also humor, pathos and robust sensuality.

Unfortunately, Dawn's writing is occasionally overwrought and hackneyed. However, at its best, it takes on the raw urgency of a Beat era poet, with the same sweeping, stream-of-consciousness tone.

Besides Matemotja, the consistently high-quality cast includes Tasia Sherel, Brandy Maddox, Tammi Rashonda, Renee McSwain, Erica Pitts, Shannon Shepherd, Brianna Brown, and Baadja. The play's emphasis on female bonding is appropriate. Indeed, these performers are so closely bonded in style and commitment, they often seem to function as one organism.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

"Sunshine for a Midnight Weary," Inglewood Playhouse, 714 Warren Lane (in Edward Vincent Park), Inglewood. 8 p.m. Thursdays only. Ends July 7. (818) 754-2559. www.embodi.org. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

*

Ambition agitates 'Navy Pier' waters

Disillusioned writer Martin stands at Chicago's Navy Pier. He has returned from San Francisco to the college town where years ago, unsure of his gifts, Martin jockeyed with competitive pal Kurt. Then artist Iris and a New Yorker magazine contest entered the equation. Today, Kurt and Iris are part of the Manhattan literati, while Martin struggles for renewal with Bay Area historian-turned-barmaid Liv. At least, he has until today.

These four circle in a multi-tiered route to "Navy Pier," presented by VS. Theatre Company at the Victory Theatre Center. This West Coast premiere of John Corwin's study of romance, creativity and friendship run roughshod by ambition holds its ground past distinctly small-scaled, novella-styled stakes.

Certainly, "Navy Pier," which Chicago-based playwright Corwin's Wax Lips Theatre Company co-produced in 2000 at the Soho Theatre in London, is engaging.

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