LULU – Drama — Pacific Resident Theatre.
A Pacific Resident Theatre production of a play in two acts by Peter Barnes,
adapted from the
plays by Frank Wedekind. Directed by Jessica Kubzansky.
By AMY KARPINSKI
Peter Barnes’ “Lulu,” adapted from the two-play “Lulu cycle” by German playwright Frank Wedekind, is as unforgiving, wry and sexually charged as the original material. Yet, a century after Wedekind wrote the Lulu cycle, there is little in the play’s premise that will surprise. Lulu is a beautiful, narcissistic young woman, both sex object and sexual predator, and, like most female characters of this persuasion: She’s doomed. At the play’s beginning, she is married to a corpulent lecher named Dr. Goll; when he collapses from a heart attack after walking in on Lulu trysting with the artist he commissioned to paint her portrait, she seems unmoved, and is soon married to the artist, whom she also betrays. Her only love, she later suggests, is Dr. Schon, a “respectable” gentleman who has preened her for society since she was a young flower girl. Schon is no Henry Higgins, however; though engaged to another woman, he has presumably acted upon his amorous intentions with Lulu since he first knew her. By the time they are married, it is clear that his “protection ” of her has left Lulu almost defenseless. Though Wedekind, like Brecht, aims for moral and emotional detachment in his work, he never quite achieves that clean, cynical break in this play; nor does Barnes’ adaption help to define that separation. Lulu seems so childlike that it is sometimes difficult to believe her coldness; she is naughty and selfish and unable to understand the consequences of her actions, but she is not sadistic or homicidal. Valerie Dillman imbues Lulu with a mixture of danger and insouciance while not neglecting her neediness and desperation. LuIu may not be respectable, but she is not without self-respect, and Dillman brings to light what lies beneath the surface of her deadly beauty. Intriguingly, some of those around Lulu come to understand that they have access to the same lethal, forbidding power that she does. It is ultimately not Lulu they want, nor love, nor even sex: they yearn to harness what darkness they can and gain money, personal glory and immutable domination over others. Toward the end of the play, we realize that that’s what Lulu feared all along.
Wedekind makes Lulu the victim, the comely outlet of a repressed society, and we are given no choice but to feel sorry for her a we wait for her untimely end. Unfortunately, it is too long a wait, but the fault lies more with Wedekind’s often strained and convoluted plot than with Barnes’ adaptation here.
The supporting cast is admirable and Michael Marlowe’s rich set seductive.