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The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets

GO THE BLACK RIDER: THE CASTING OF THE MAGIC BULLETS Robert Wilson’s 1990 “musical fable” reimagines the German folktale on which Weber’s opera, Der Freischütz, is based, as a kind of Expressionist carnival. His backdrops’ woodcut texture and actors’ Caligari-pallor makeup also suggest an old UFA horror film. In a mythic forest, a clerk (Matt McGrath) must win a shooting contest to secure marriage to his sweetheart (Mary Margaret O’Hara), while a Mephistopholean figure named Pegleg (Vance Avery) obligingly offers some magic bullets. From this point onward, a village of bizarre characters (think Beetle Juice cast by Clive Barker) begin behaving badly, with no one acting remotely sympathetic. As a postmodern scenarist, Wilson shows himself to be in top form, creating indelible images (especially human faces) and splashes of antic sound effects. Yet the evening is needlessly long and isn’t about anything — serving as another expensive example of art for artists. Still, as entertainment, The Black Rider has much to offer, including an outstanding cast that is completely in tune with Wilson’s vision. Tom Waits’ score, a mix of klezmer, calliope and blues, and his woozy, boozy romantic ballads (with their singers sometimes mimicking Waits’ signature growl), nicely clash against the deadpan cynicism of William S. Burroughs’ startlingly vapid book. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 11. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Mikulan) See Stage feature.


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