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November 17, 2013

Sex and Violence, Le Theatre du Grand Guignol Style

Ryan R. Lash in “The Final Kiss.” Photo-Savage Rose.

Le Theatre du Grand Guignol’s The Final Kiss and Tics, or Doing The Deed
Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company at the SLANT Culture Theatre Festival
Directed by Tony Prince

Review by Brian Walker

Copyright 2013 by Brian Walker, all rights reserved.

Le Theatre Du Grand Guignol was founded in 1894 by Oscar Metenier and for nearly seventy years was the premiere experimental theatre of Paris. People of all social classes came to the theatre for an experience, not simply to see a play. Most of their productions were fueled by political and social unrest and marked by excessive onstage violence and sex. They were slasher films. They were pulp. They were the Seventies’ sex farce of the late Nineteenth Century.

Savage Rose presents two plays from the company’s history in one bill – The Final Kiss by Maurice Level, and Tics, or Doing the Deed at this year’s SLANT Festival – and the results are exactly what, I suspect, were intended.

The Final Kiss made me feel uneasy, uncomfortable, revolted and disgusted. It centers on a pair of lovers who find more joy in torturing each other than loving each other. Ryan R. Lash and Mera Kathryn Corlett put everything they’ve got into the jilted lovers Henri and Jeanne, and the result is something I can only imagine old Oscar Metenier himself would be proud of. It induced so many negative emotions in me that at first I didn’t think it was very good. But as the piece moved forward, I became acutely aware of what the goal of this type of theatre is and I realized, in this context, how good it actually was. I have to commend not only the actors of this piece but director Tony Prince for literally pushing the limits of decency to present this twisted tale in an authentic way. The metaphor couldn’t be clearer, and the torturing couldn’t have been more difficult to watch.

Between the two plays there is a seven-minute interval, and I wasn’t sure if the point was for everyone to watch the set change and that was a Le Theatre du Grand Guignol thing or if everyone was just being polite and didn’t want to get up (or even speak). The doors to the lobby didn’t open and everyone stayed put and watched two young students transform the stage from an abstract version of hell to a lovely upper-class sitting room. It was kind of weird. But, again, I think it was probably the point, so kudos again.

Tics, or Doing The Deed was a smarter, more clever script than its predecessor, at least in my opinion. Doctor Martin (Gerry Rose) and his wife Henrietta (Mera Kathryn Corlett) have invited another well-to-do couple over for dinner. It is revealed that this other couple might in fact have sexual tendencies that stray into the exotic, and a deal is struck with the doctor and his wife:  If one of them cheats, the other is allowed to do it too. The doorbell rings, and it is pretty apparent where things are going as soon as Ernest (Ryan R. Lash) and his exuberant wife Genevieve (Kate Bringardner) arrive. It was shocking, but this time the shock was sex and not violence. It’s a saucy social comment on class, sexuality and couple’s politics. It’s played for laughs by the ensemble of six with a heady pace and an almost manic intention. Everyone ends up acting like animals to get what they want, and I loved the implications and accusations of the whole thing.

Special props to the ensemble as a whole. Everyone was bold and brave and made unexpected choices and had a good time and they were fun to watch, particularly in the second play.

Would I sit through it again? No, absolutely not. Once was enough for me. But again, I think that’s what was intended, so I convey this sentiment with the highest regard.

Le Theatre du Grand Guignol’s The Final Kiss and Tics, or Doing The Deed

November 17 at 5pm
November 21 at 9pm
November 23 at 7pm
Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street

www.savagerosetheatre.com

www.slantculture.com






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