EVIDENCE ROOM PRESENTS
Overture. "Med. S.I."/"Burning Rubber"
I. A couple in bed.
Ii. "Sex Street"
Iii. A Couple In Bed.
Iv. "Funny Artist Fellow"
V. A Couple In Bed.
VI. "Sleepytime Guy"/"Ride"
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo
Set & Costume Designer - Robert A. Prior
Producer - Bart DeLorenzo
Stage Manager - Connie Monaghan
Graphic Design - Colleen Wainwright
September 15 - October 20, 2001
Lauren Campedelli (Karen) and Tobias Baker (Peter)
Leo Marks (David) and Lauren Campedelli (Karen)
Featuring Will Watkins
Los Angeles Times
Long before he became one of America’s hot theatrical numbers, historian-turned-playwright Charles L. Mee concocted a kind of nuclear-meltdown variety show called The Imperialists at the Club Cave Canem.Ideally, you might catch the 70-minute explosion now at Evidence Room before or after something else, on maybe five hours’ sleep. It’s a dance-intensive goof that does all the work for you, comprising three bedroom conversations, mundane and postcoital, preceded by musical numbers – Mee’s text refers only to unspecified "performance pieces." These are the dominant elements in Evidence Room’s production. Original songs include "Burning Rubber," "Sex Street," "Funny Artist Fellow" (in which the performance art vibe is made explicit) and a cowboy lullaby titled "Sleepytime Guy." There’s also a prologue consisting of the Cinderella story, told by Pamela Gordon with more than a few letters out of place. A sample sentence: "My son the pransom hince wants all the giligible earls to sly on the tripper." Put it all together, and by design, it comes apart. Mee’s text premiered in New York in 1988, all six pages of it. (It’s available at http://www.panix.com/˜meejr/imperialists.html.) Evidence Room’s West Coast premiere, staged by Bart DeLorenzo, imparts a sense of American culture falling all over itself to entertain, in a Weimar-meets-Austin Powers go-go setting. The choreography by Ken Roht is propulsively silly and fairly inventive in its raunch, performed by members of the Orphean Circus. (Teigh McDonough’s a standout in the movement sequences.) If the result is more interesting than funny, DeLorenzo’s weirder images compensate. At one point, a man opens a newspaper that, due to a live sound effect and a puff of smoke, appears to explode from within. A funny, chilling moment. The show’s rhythm errs toward predictability, which sounds strange for such a wild outing. You wouldn’t mind a change-up or two; Mee’s script amounts to a somewhat studied lark – pillow talk followed by dadaist freak-out, and then another bedroom scene. "Often I hear something and I remember it and I think it happened to me," says one character. That’s history in one sentence, according to Mee. The imperialism angle remains oblique in The Imperialists, but as consumers, we hear stories of imperialism and terrorism and faraway places we choose not to comprehend. And then we appropriate them, while the beat goes on.
– Michael Phillips
It’s not clear what the title means. Nor, ultimately, does it matter, since Charles L. Mee’s kaleidoscopic event is essentially one lavish performance-art party, complete with tight production numbers, gorgeously voiced singer-actors, wry comic turns, and fabulously imaginative costumes. The show represents an amalgam of several of L.A.’s most innovative theatrical talents: Bart De Lorenzo’s shrewd, visually insightful direction is set off by Ken Roht’s compelling musical direction and choreography, and by Robert A. Prior’s amazing costumes. Blending whimsy, kitsch and disturbing irony, the production alternates tongue-in-cheek love ballads with quick, disturbing images of sexuality and gender confusion. For instance, "Sex Street" is a vibrant, jazzy production number in which syrupy love ballads are juxtaposed against quirky carnal tableaux. The musical numbers are bracketed by a series of La Ronde-like bedroom scenes, in which several New York boho types connect (or don’t quite) with weirdly disjointed pillow talk. Unfortunately, Mee’s frenetically structured 1988 text itself is the show’s weakest link – a series of playful, thin yet pretentious Laurie Anderson-style vignettes, whose meaning is often oblique and which sometimes feel like a lightweight afterthought for the ferociously inventive stagecraft. The ensemble, particularly the "Orphean Circus" chorus, sing like rock stars and dance like angels – though they’re inevitably upstaged by Prior’s show-stopping costumes.
– Paul Birchall