The lights go down, an announcer comes over the speaker with the usual “turn off your cell phones” bit and a few chuckles are had. Intense music overtakes the room and where a blackout should be had, there is none. It becomes obvious something is wrong and the show is post-poned for about fifteen minutes. Yet once the show got going, it was obvious that is was worth the wait.
The world premiere of “The Fool and the Red Queen” written by poet/playwright Murray Mednick has opened at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood this past Saturday and will play through June 24th. This play is part VII of an octet of plays entitled “The Gary Plays”. I have not seen any of the other pieces, so I will comment on this piece as a stand alone performance.
This play consists of performances within performances and is extremely whimsical as well as thought provoking. The show opens with two men auditioning a somewhat has-bin actor, for a movie that they are sporadically throwing together with random ideas. Though many of the lines are hilarious and the actors have great delivery, there are many lines that will really make you think. This show raises questions about life and one’s purpose. It is important to note that the author of this show is a poet. That becomes very obvious with the dialogue the characters share. It is fast paced and yet smooth at the same time. You have to really pay attention to what they are saying. It is easy to get lost amongst to witty banter.
The second half of the show takes place in a Queen’s castle and a nearby Inn. This is the movie the filmmakers were concocting in Act I. It starts off fast-paced and very entertaining. Though by the time the action shifts to the Inn, the show starts to drag on and it becomes harder to follow.
Though they can be hard to understand at times, the cast of this show is stellar. Bill Celentano, who plays the Red Queen’s Fool, is heart wrenching in his portrayal. The Fool has spent his life working for the Red Queen (Julia Prud’homme), whom he loathes and loves all at the same time. The Queen herself is utterly mad and changes her thoughts almost instantaneously. Prud’homme is exceedingly annoying in her role and that is really the point. Her ridiculous dress makes it clear that she is utterly mad from the moment she walks on stage. Ann Closs-Farley did an excellent job by giving Prud’homme a sparkly red bra covered with a clear plastic corset that is unflattering and distracting. The corset barely moves with the actress, plainly sticking to her bare skin underneath it. I liked the costume because it fit the character beautifully, in any other show it would have been awful and extremely hideous. Peggy A. Blow’s performance as the Innkeeper/chorus is utterly fascinating. She is obviously extremely talented. Her facial expressions and use of her voice to change between the Innkeeper and just an auspicious onlooker are phenomenal. Often smaller parts that are so well played take away from the main characters, but Blow balances her performance perfectly.
Mednick has created a show that is not for everyone. It is an odd night in the theatre but one that can be enjoyed. Not everyone will understand this new poetic piece and I cannot say that I truly understood it myself. However, in this tiny theatre on the odd shaped stage it is a great first presentation of this work. It still has many more weeks of its run and it will most likely improve during that time. I do suggest taking a long walk during intermission, because the seats themselves are not that comfortable. Nonetheless, if your in the mood for a thought provoking night then by all means go see “The Fool and the Red Queen.”