Friday, January 17, 2014

in co-production with Theatre Smash

Maja Zade’s starkly effective sixty minute translation of Marius von Mayenburg’s tragicomic fable-cum-parody of the cosmetic surgery industry graces the stage of Tarragon Theatre’s Extraspace with a powerful cast and intense and concise direction from Ashlie Corcoran. This Dora Award winning re-mount has the original cast re-playing the roles of four power hungry hedonists in hot pursuit of wealth, each other, and the perfect countenance. 

Sharp, bright lighting, interspersed with subtler shadowy sequences, beautifully handled by lighting designer Jason Hand, pulls the audience into the drama at hand in a perhaps unintentionally yet appropriately unflattering way. With bleachers on either side of the raised rectangular playing space spectators are forced to view themselves and the actors as complicit participants in a game of love lust and competitive squalor. Sound by John Gzowski blasts us in and out of explosive environments and gives us the necessary ease of complicit discomfort that the script demands. 

Apples are placed onstage and in the front row for actors to become even closer to their thoroughly engaged spectatorial voyeurs, becoming biblical props in a kind of symbolic Adam and Evil Garden of Eden scenario gone terribly wrong form the very beginning.

Hardee T. Lineham as Scheffler, the ruthless boss, gives a remarkable layered performance with vocal nuances and rapid physical movement that give him an almost Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal Lekter presence that simultaneously frightens and amuses. 
David Jansen’s portrayal of Lette, the initial ‘ugly one,’ provides a kind of put upon Pygmalion figure rising angrily from the fleshly sliced ashes. Jansen delivers a delicate and powerful balance of ‘ugliness’ and great physical and emotional charm. 
Jesse Aaron Dwyre as Karlmann gives an equally powerful performance in a dual role that allows him to become the sexually marginalized character who preys off various rivalries at the outset. 
Naomi Wright, as a kind of raven haired Joan Rivers archetype-cum-allegory plays an elderly dowager’ly mother of eerie proportions, as well as the straight talking Fanny - wife to Jansen’s initially perplexed and bewildered ugly one. Wright gives a layered, sharply played performance that rounds out a first rate ensemble adept at handling the tricky business of directly and simply written parody that soars to Kafka-esque heights by the end of the play - finding Dwyre and Jansen in a deliciously sexy encounter of the narcissistic kind. Camellia Koo's set and costumes are pristine, sharp, CEO inspired silhouettes in black and white and grey, enhancing a white raised dais of a stage that puts all of our self adoring tendencies on display for us to examine, laugh at, and be horrified by. Leaving one with the eternal question, who is that smiling at me in the glistening relentless snow white existential mirror of post-modern life. Oh my, it's me...

The Ugly One runs at the 
Tarragon Extraspace 
until February 16th

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