By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Act 2 is filled with yet more pointless tragedy, inflicted upon a lesbian couple (Christine Horn and Julanne Chidi Hill), struggling to define their place in the swirl of homophobia, and we’ve gone from a kind of social-musical adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths to a Laramie Project–ish melodrama about gay identity, with characters who hadn’t even bothered to make an appearance until Act 2. The musical tries to balance the circumstances surrounding its characters’ lives with their defiance, in a world ultimately defined by social and sexual circumstances. For me, Act 2 went the way of that offstage child plunging down the elevator shaft.
Michael Matthews’ otherwise robust staging includes canned accompaniment, adding this to a list of karaoke musicals in L.A. (USS Pinafore and Life Could Be a Dream). Yes, it’s expensive to pay a live combo, but we’re talking about musicals with actors who can actually sing, dance and deserve better. Can a cue please be taken from Sacred Fools Theatre, which uses live musicians for its musicals? If a theater can’t afford the musicians, perhaps they should wait until it can.
“Short person”/comic Selene Luna (she stands 4 feet, in heels) performs a stand-up routine that’s part satire, part autobiography and history of vaudeville, much of it lifted from acts she’s done before. In attitude, she’s a walking ball of comic defiance, which is exactly what stand-up is supposed to be, and she affiliates herself with the gay community because of its acceptance of outcasts.
She has played in big houses, and this one isn’t, yet her style feels as mannered, as though it were. Or perhaps it was opening-night jitters. You can find some of these same bits on YouTube, where, oddly, her poise and timing work much more effectively than in the show I saw. Here, she has a bizillion costume changes, which were sabotaging her concentration. She’s obviously a talent; it’s recorded in cyberspace, and I’m willing to gamble that she’ll settle in to a level of comfort.
That aside, it’s one of those “I know I’m odd, but I will survive” shows. The quality of the drama lies in the quality of the defiance. Luna has little interest in playing the victim; she’d rather crack jokes and perform a soft-core strip-tease. From such a little person, that’s what they used to call subversive, which she couches in the attitudes of gay humor — good naturedly calling her audiences “bitches,” for example. As autobiographical stand-up goes, it’s painted somewhat by the numbers, a little bit brave but not quite bravura.
Derick LaSalla directs.
THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE | MUSIC AND LYRICS BY TIM ACITO | At the CELEBRATION THEATRE, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 27 | (323) 957-1884.
BORN TO BE ALIVE | WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY SELENE LUNA | L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Davidson/Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 27 | (323) 860-7302.