HYPERKINETIC GUMBO & THE PHANTASMAGORIC ANUS: a review of the Wooster Group’s Vieux Carre at RedCat

7 Dec

guest review by Atalie Kessler

Ari Flaikos and Kate Valk in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Nancy Campbell.

The Wooster Group’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Vieux Carre” at the RedCat should come with a warning for those seated in the first five rows: actor’s anuses are closer than they appear.  After sitting through the two hour production – no intermission – I left feeling like I needed a shower, a feeling exacerbated by the semi-consentual intimacy of my third row vantage point of prosthetic penises, breasts, leather floss thongs, tubercular lung blood, porno video loops and, as already mentioned, neatly waxed anuses.

“Vieux Carre” is a memory play based on Williams’ experiences living in a Depression-era New Orleans flophouse.  The original 1977 Broadway production closed after five days, and it is no mystery why: the play is a gumbo of melodrama and half-remembered characters.

Scott Shephard and Ari Fliakos in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Frank Beloncle.

The Wooster Group’s production is a phantasmagoria of sexual degradation, poverty and abject loneliness staged and played back on screens in both real-time and fast-forward. The acting is vigorous and abusive; the cast members molest each other throughout the production with an ease that evidently comes from years of working together.  Despite the tawdry costumes and incessant inanity, the production is enjoyable for its originality and fine acting. Kate Valk’s performance as the homicidal landlady “Mrs. Wire” and lovelorn “Jane Sparks” is enlivened with humor and pathos, and worth the price of admission.

The Wooster production attains a level of sophistication through elaborate video and audio manipulations, which creates hyperkinetic projections of the Writer’s (played by Ari Fliakos) own sexual awakening and loneliness. Characters appear as grotesque ghost like figures both on screen and off, tempting and tormenting the Writer. Unfortunately, by the end, they torment the audience too.

“Vieux Carre,” REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m Tuesday-Saturday, 7 p.m Sunday. Ends Dec. 12. $45-$55. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes (no intermission).

ABOUT ATALIE KESSLER:

Atalie Kessler produced her first video, Attack of the Killer Vanity Products, when she was just eleven years old.  After graduating from the American University with a BA in communication, she joined Feld Entertainment’s creative services department and learned how to juggle bowling pins while producing multiple shoots for Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus., and Disney On Ice.  Since then she has gone on to produce and post-production supervise a number of projects ranging from the The Radio City Rockettes to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Scott Shepherd in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Frank Beloncle.

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