Author Topic: Los Angeles Times Review of "Cleansed"-no surprises here- Molly  (Read 5086 times)

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Los Angeles Times Review of "Cleansed"-no surprises here- Molly
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2007, 10:51:19 PM »
I'm a bit surprised that the reviewer didn't see the hope in the play, but oh, well.

In the few brief years that constituted her professional career, playwright Sarah Kane was both lionized and pilloried in British theatrical circles. Kane's plays, with their graphic scenes of sex, torture and mutilation, were decried by many as pure filth and just as passionately defended by luminaries, such as Harold Pinter, who praised the brilliance of her dark vision.

When Kane killed herself in 1999 at age 28, speculation that critical drubbing had hastened her death sparked widespread reassessment of the playwright's life and works. Her harshest critics issued anguished recantations. Her intimates warned against judging Kane's sparse canon in light of her self-annihilation. Kane's suicide, they argued, should be viewed as incidental, a sidebar to her autonomous artistry.

Viewing the Rude Guerrilla Theater Company's production of Kane's "Cleansed" at the Empire Theater in Santa Ana, that distinction becomes impossible. Without the context of Kane's suicide, the dismal and lubricious exchanges that constitute "Cleansed" would seem depressingly gratuitous. In light of Kane's death, they are tragic. This is not so much a play as a sustained shriek--a cry for help that went unanswered.

The setting is an abandoned university that houses a mysterious institution presided over by Tinker (Jay Fraley), a tortured torturer of ambivalent sexuality who doles out drugs and punishments to his terrified patients-prisoners.

Part mental hospital, part concentration camp, Tinker's domain is the arena for continual atrocities, both physical and psychological. The inmates of these hellish precincts are hurtin' for certain. A bereaved sister (Larissa Tidwell) engages in incest with the spirit of her dead brother (Scott Caster). Gay lovers (Bryan Jennings and Stephen Wagner) try to forge a sustaining emotional alliance, while the hatchet-wielding Tinker whittles away their humanity--along with their vital protuberances. (Puppet rats feed freely on the bounty of severed limbs.) In turn, Tinker struggles for some psychological connection with a sex slave (Molly Dewane), and a gentle boy (Scott Barber), thwarted in love, hangs himself.

Director Dave Barton excavates his material to the exacting depths of a conscientious gravedigger, while an intrepid cast bares all and dares all pursuing Kane's fool's fire into the boneyard.

Kane's point, such as it is, is that cruelty abounds in this wicked world, and all human love is doomed from the outset. Sadly, the kind of barbarity seen in "Cleansed" is not beyond imagining; it is the stuff of daily headlines. What seemed beyond Kane's imagining was the bounteous potential of human charity and true love. Apparently, she ended her life without that ameliorating knowledge.

--F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

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« Last Edit: September 12, 2007, 02:13:38 PM by Iain Fisher »