The Night Salvador Dali Stole the Moon | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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The Night Salvador Dali Stole the Moon 

An appeal from the asylum

Wednesday, Oct 11 2000
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Dear Doctor,

Last night I dreamed I saw a play called Pathe X by Ricardo Zeger, presented by Zoo District at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood. When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t remember it at all. This upset me a lot, in part because I know for a fact my dream was subsequently stolen by the painter Salvador Dali, who is well-known for plucking out of the sky the moon that holds all dreams. I know this to be true because I looked outside just before dawn, and the moon was nowhere to be seen. The good news is that Dali later returned the moon and my dream, which is now as clear as night:

Near the dream play‘s start, the playwright character, called Eugene and rendered with heroic conviction by Jon Kellam (according to the program I dreamed I read), awakes from a dream that he can’t quite remember. He knows that his dream revealed an idea for the ”perfect play,“ so you can imagine his despair when it simply vaporized -- indeed, half-remembered dreams and inspirations make up a reality that Eugene, Dali and I can all relate to.

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It turns out that Eugene‘s dream (excuse me, the moon that holds all dreams) was stolen by -- you guessed it -- Dali, played in various incarnations by Patrick Towne, Joe Seely and Ben Simonetti. The lunatic Spaniard, it seems, hung the caged, half-melted moon on his mustache, or somewhere. With the guidance of Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (Christine Deaver), costumed (by Kara Feely) as a minotaur, Eugene spends a couple of hours lurching through his subconscious in search of the key to the cage that holds the stolen moon. I saw vegetables toddling across the stage; an array of puppets made of both substance and shadow; Mr. Dali and his musespouse, Gala (the fiery Teresa Corchete); and also a gallery of cultural icons from the first half of the 20th century, including Sigmund Freud (Loren Rubin), wearing a tiny office-door mask (by Paule Lemasson) that popped open when needed; Max Ernst (Graham Jackson); Andre Breton and Paul Eluard (both played by Rubin); Federico Garcia Lorca (Laura Esposito); and even, in a cameo appearance, Adolf Hitler (Mami Arizono), with whom Dali was smitten, to the dismay of so many of his contemporaries and followers.

The entire dream was accompanied by Jef Bek’s live music, as -- or so it seemed to me -- had been other productions by this troupe. A huge, hanging sheet of steel made a noise like thunder when rattled, and a cymbal made whooshing noises. (Arizono [accordion], Jackson and Simonetti [keyboard] all shared the percussion duties.) There was also a violinist (Beth Bergman), and something they called a ”glass harp,“ which was really a kind of xylophone made of water glasses, each filled to a different level. (Douglas Lee spent the whole night licking his fingertips and running them around the glass rims.) The music, along with Zeger‘s own spectacular production design, was vital to my enjoyment of this play within a dream, since traditional dramatic structure had been replaced by a universe of arbitrary rules, resulting in a freeform, through-the-looking-glass journey that, even with Eugene’s quest at its center and director Antony Sandoval‘s soaring flights of inventiveness, contained almost no suspense.

You too, doctor, would have enjoyed having such a dream, seeing such a play -- along with anyone else who’s willing to suspend the signposts of perceived reality in favor of those that lurk below the threshold of consciousness. You‘d especially have liked the part where Eugene realizes that both he and Dali have had the same dream, evoking the idea that dreams are collective rather than idiosyncratic.

As I dreamed, it seemed to me that I’d seen much of the past work of this exuberant and excellent company: Scenes From an Execution, a dream play about politics and a tormented painter; Nosferatu: Angel of the Final Hour, a dream play about politics and a tormented filmmaker; The Master and Margarita, a dream play about politics and a tormented novelist (the production that landed me here at the mental ward); and now, this dream play, Pathe X, a little about politics but mostly about its tormented playwright. Doctor, even I can detect a recurring motif here.

And so, despite the nurses‘ kindness, the effectiveness of your prescriptions and the fine food here at Camarillo, I respectfully request permission for discharge, if only so as to see whether Pathe X really exists, and whether my dream was imagined by me, Eugene or Salvador Dali. I really need to get my bearings.

Solipsistically yours,

Pat X

Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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