2525 Michigan Ave., T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Region: Santa Monica
Not long ago, people regarded as exotic or subhuman were tossed into cages for the viewing pleasure of the American public. Such was the dreadful fate of Congo pygmy Ota Benga, who was displayed with monkeys at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. In Charles Duncombe's world-premiere drama, Caged, Megan Kim and R.J. Jones are naked, snatched-from-the-jungle "noble savages," who, confined in a cage stocked with toys, convincingly channel primitive angst, lethargically striding about, communicating and reacting with grunts and violent upsurges and hitting each other playfully. Extended commentary about the exhibit is provided by a keeper (Katrina Nelson) and an interviewer (Leah Harf), whose theories and statements of facts are a bladed mix of the outrageously comical and idiotic. But it's the cavalcade of spectators and their assorted hang-ups that provide the wallop of humor and irony here: a boy with his parents wanting to see tricks; a man meeting another man for a blowjob; several couples in distress, mirroring the plight of the captives; a lonely woman seeking affection; an elderly woman with a huge ax to grind. The contrasts and the heavy-handed subtext are striking -- and unsettling. Though not overly dramatic, Duncombe's smartly written script is delightfully provocative and insightful. Performances are sharply calibrated under Frederique Michel's direction.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Feb. 15. Continues through March 24, 2013