EVIDENCE ROOM PRESENTS
Cast (in order of appearance)
Jason Taverner, a popular television personality - Joe Fria
Director - Bart DeLorenzo
Stage Manager - Beth Mack
Graphic Design - Colleen Wainwright
March 12 - May 7, 2005
LA WeeklyNo warm fuzzies here. Director Bart DeLorenzo first staged Linda Hartinian’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi dystopia in 1999, yet the surreal event is more coherent today. DeLorenzo says he’s tinkered with the play, cleaning up sequential gaffes—that’s one explanation. Probably more pertinent is the extent to which our culture has further slid down Dick’s totalitarian sinkhole, rendering what was fantastical only six years ago as more slice of life. TV host Jason Taverner (lock-jawed Joe Fria) wakes up in a futuristic 1988 Los Angeles to live out every celeb's nightmare—nobody recognizes him. He’s entered some kind of parallel universe that’s part Kafka, part Orwell, with übercop General Buckman (Tony Maggio) trying to fathom how Taverner got all his ID data deleted from every database. (Taverner is even more baffled than Buckman.) Taverner bounces through pseudo-sexual encounters with TV diva Heather Hunt (Dorie Barton), police informant Kathy Nelson (Liz Davies) and Buckman's dominatrix sister/wife, Alys (Tara Chocol), trying to find out who and where on Earth he is. With the possible exception of pure-hearted pot-maker Mary Anne Dominic (Colleen Kane), every character has been turned to spiritual sludge by a society fueled by the polar cults of celebrity and secrecy. Don't look for empathetic characters; the point is the living nightmare/social satire that's regrettably only fitfully satirical. The acting is wonderfully stylized on Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set of steel and smudged, translucent plastic, decorated with Adam Soch’s video design and accentuated by the high-tech horrors of John Zalewski’s sound design. If you don’t leave this production feeling slightly ill, you’re in deeper trouble than you could possibly imagine.
– Steven Leigh Morris
BackStage WestThe prescient works of acclaimed sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) have been posthumously discovered as potent fodder for mega-budget action flicks (Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck). In a more cerebral vein, Linda Hartinian’s stage adaptation of Dick’s 1974 novel demonstrates why his idiosyncratic voice remains pertinent and compelling. Originally set in a then-futuristic 1988, the piece encompasses a heady mix of Kafka-esque paranoia, Lewis Carroll whimsy, and Dick’s own unnervingly distinctive sensibility. The result is a darkly comic vision of an off-kilter universe, skewering everything from the shallowness of celebrity to the self-serving machinations of fascistic leaders. Director Bart DeLorenzo first staged this piece in 1999, and he has recast and remounted it in an astonishing multimedia production that crackles with breathtaking theatricality.
Full comprehension of the labyrinthine story developments seems secondary to reveling in the electrifying milieu. We are introduced to egocentric TV celebrity Jason Taverner (Joe Fria), whose weekly variety program pushes his sex-idol image, which he lives up to off-camera as a full-fledged Casanova. As he romances his colleague Heather Hart (Dorie Barton), a scorned ex-flame, Marilyn Mason (Wendy Johnson) seeks revenge. This results in the loss of all traces of his identity and his desperate quest to avoid imprisonment or death at the hands of a totalitarian government. As he scrambles to survive the nightmare, Taverner meets and beds several bizarre women who could either help or betray him.
DeLorenzo elicits stylish, robust characterizations from the entire
ensemble, led by Fria’s tour-de-force take on the tricky leading role.
Amid Dick's morally ambiguous context, Fria strikes the ideal balance
between a semi-sympathetic protagonist and a scoundrel getting his comeuppance.
As Taverner’s sneaky adversary, police general Buckman, Tony Maggio delivers
a sardonically funny and chilling portrayal. Tara Chocol is deliciously
demented as McNulty's sister/lover (think Chinatown); ditto Liz Davies
as a crackpot who prepares fake IDs. Crucial to the production are the
masterful contributions of scenic designer Sibyl Wickersheimer, costumers
Ann Closs-Farley and Miguel Montalvo, lighting designer Adam H. Greene,
sound designer John Zalewski, and video artist Adam Soch. All forces combine
fortuitously in the sleekest, funniest, and most ominously edgy theatrical
acid trip within memory.
– Les Spindle