The Pacific Resident Theatre Presents
March 25, 1999

STAGE REVIEW by Philip Brandes, Special to the Times
Peter Barnes’
shows how one libertine can wreak havoc on repression.

Lust, decandence and obsession invade Pacific Resident Theatre with ardonic wit and chilling lack of sentiment in a daring, inventive staging of Lulu which turns out to be a real Lulu of a play. Expect no mercy.

Not that we’d every seek pity for human fallibility from playwright Peter Barnes. In his savage black comedy “The Ruling Class”, an innocuous Christlike kook achieved social respectability through his transformation into a latter-day Jack the Ripper. As an adapter, Barnes finds a source right up his dark alley in the forefather of German abstract Expressionist theatre, Frank Wedekind.

A century ago, Wedekind assaulted Victorian-era sensibilities by exposing the terrible consequences of repressed sexuality. His most enduring works, the “Lulu” cycle (“Earth Spirit” and “Pandora’s Box”), employ ground-breaking sexual frankness to depict the conquests of a heartless beautiful libertine.

Condensed by Barnes into an episodic evening of unchained libidos and phsyic destruction, “Lulu” chronicles the rise and fall of a penniless flower girl (Valerie Dillman) who’s rescued from the investuous cluthes of her scoundrel father (Frank Collison)) by a Pygmalion-like publishing tycoon (Robert Baily). After grooming her for society, he falls for her manipulative charms – as does every other male who comes in contact with her.

This Lulumay be fair, but she’s no lady. In an extraordinary performance, Dillman depicts a sexual predator at the height of her seductive powers who ends up yet another victom of the passions unleased by dangerous impulses she can exploit but never control. At the end of an unfailingly convincing downward spiral, Dillman’s burnt out cinder hauntingly embraces both description and deliverance from the unfillable hole at the pit of her soul.

Though Wedekind condemns a repressive society unable to accommodate sexual urges, he is equally unsparing toward his loveless characters. Lulu is a willing blank slate for projected animas . all desire her, many posses her body, but no one knows her. And Lulu herself looks no further inward than her own appetites. By the time Lulu’s victims (Bailky, Norman Scott, Dennis Madden, Wayne Grace, Jennifer Taub, Nick Rogers and Alexander Enberg) realize their catastrophic folly, its always too late – nor would they have acted any differently.

Outrageously comit and uniformly excellent performances emphasize the farcical elements in Jessica Kubzansky’s carnival atmosphere staging which ends with Lulu’s victims flanking the stage wearing clown noses – but the laughs have no soft edges.

Rather than sympathy, Lulu evokes a contemplative mockery colder even than Brecht in its lack of social or political conscience. This stunning descent into the purely Freudian psyche stripped of all civilized comfort, is steeped in laughter, eros, and horror. But no mercy.

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