Photo Courtesy of Societas Raffaello Sanzio

“He longs to make a film” the New York Times reported last year about Italian stage director/set-lighting-and-costume designer Romeo Castellucci. And that longing is more than evident in Purgatorio — one- third of the director's trilogy (co-commissioned by UCLA Live), based on Dante's The Divine Comedy, presented by Societas Raffaello Sanzio in its U.S. premiere. A mother named First Star (Irena Radmanovic) chops bread at an upstage kitchen table of what one could presume is a spacious estate. With the sound design, the slicing is amplified throughout the auditorium. She calls out to her son, a boy, Second Star (Pier Paolo Zimmermann), who's suffering from a fever. He plays with a toy robot, and the dialogue between mother and son is inane and hollow, culminating with him asking, “Is he coming back tonight?” From the ritual of the food preparation and service, the detailed, robotic rituals undertaken by both characters, and the eventual arrival and tender-empty interaction between husband, Third Star (Sergio Scarlatell) and his wife, Castellucci poses a strategic mystery swirling around what's happening and what's going to happen. There's no mystery, however, to the saturating feeling that this is not going to end well. Purgatorio consists of a series of short scenes, separated by long, elaborate scene transformations into the son's room, a living room, etc – each undertaken with a singular absence of frenzy or even of urgency. Eventually, super-titles provide stage directions for what has happened, and what is about to happen, adding to the sensation of ordinary people in ordinary situations being automatons in what will turn out to be a universe of harrowing and gratuitous cruelty. This is Dante via Artaud, with cinematic special effects in which a visage of the father appears stranded in a forest of poppies, that melt into a cornfield – all seen through the mind's eye of the boy, like from a chase scene out of a horror movie. Castellucci's juxtaposes visual and aural opulence against emotional savagery (one scene is devoted to a character's dance of death). The result is an impressively dissonant blend of visual elegance and visceral disturbance, while the question lingers of whether this all could have been equally well rendered on film. But that would depend on the style and substance of the trilogy's missing two parts. UCLA, Ralph Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, 245 Charles E. Young Drive East, Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. A presented by UCLA Live. (Steven Leigh Morris)

For more local stage happenings, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.


Peppur Chambers' new play “about love, respect and Billie Holiday”

October 29-November 2 at the Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica

Boulevard, Hollywood. More information here


Lili Barsha's15th annual rendition of her Haunted Cabaret takes the stage at Cafe-Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90016.

Saturday, October 31st, 8:30 & 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 1st, 8 & 10 p.m. (323) 931-4636. More info here. 


REDCAT continues its Studio series of interdisciplinary new works and works-in-progress, Sunday-Monday, Nov. 1-2, 8:30 p.m.


edition of Studio features work by Rae Shao-Lan Blum, The LippyLu's,

Prumsodun Ok, Armen Ra, UEM with Jasmine Orpilla, and Kendra Ware and

Billy Mark.


Center Theatre Group continues its series of works-in-development at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City:

Friday, October 30 and Sunday, November 1 at 8 p.m., a reading of Kate Fodor's Rx at the Douglas Rehearsal Room.

Wednesday, November 4 at 8 p.m., Friday, November 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 8 at 3 and 8 p.m., a staged workshop of Next Stop Amazingland, created by Geoff Sobelle, Trey Lyford and Steve Cuiffo.

Check back here Monday afternoon for New Theater Reviews of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling, presented by Independent Shakespeare Company; Noah Haidle's Saturn Returns, at South Coast Repertory; Myles Nye's new musical, Beau Fib, presented by Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble at Santa Monica's Powerhouse Theatre; Patt Benson's Growing up With Uncle Miltie, at Improv Comedy Lab; Colony Theatre's production of Wayne Peter Liebman's Better Angeles; Bill Semans and Roy M. Close's geriatrics comedy, Exit Strategy, at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank; a new “Jewish musical comedy,” Answer the Call, Michael Antin & Leonard Bloom, and Derrel Maury Friedman; Theresa Chavez and Rose Portillo's Bleeding Through, presented by About Productions at Shakespeare Festival/L.A.; and Harold Pinter's No Man's Land at the Odyssey Theatre

Saturday, November 7 at 9 p.m., The Lunacy Commission, created by Lars Jan in the Douglas Lobby and Rehearsal Room.
Saturday, November 14 at 8 p.m., a reading of Jessica Goldberg's Just War

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