Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bilitis Going Rogue

 Songs of Bilitis at the Bootleg

Songs of Bilitis based on the French erotic novel by Pierre Louys, circa late 1800s. Adapted for the stage by Katie Polebaum with Rogue Artists Ensemble.

The Rogue Artists Ensemble is an enthusiastic and enterprising young theatre company of actors, directors and designers who look to the past to define their future. In an ensemble, everyone does everything.  The current production of Songs of Bilitis (Bil EE tus) is taken from what has been announced as Louys true story.  In 1894 he published some very hot stuff: a fiction, about the escapades of the lesbian Greek poet, Bilitis.  Director Sean T. Cawelti has his hands full with a variety of talents, some of whom are more experienced than others.   The flow of the show using fantastically extreme scene changes, shadow puppets, simulated puffs of opium and low tech wishing it was high tech projections keeps a pace, but as enthusiastic as this company is, it comes off much like a masters thesis production instead of a cutting edge comment on sex and sin at the turn of the century

Aryiel Hartman as Bilitis is sensual and seductive.   Movement exercises are a big part of this ensemble’s group work. She shines while others fall somewhat behind.

Having just seen what a huge budget can do for a show at the current production of TRIBES at the Taper, unfortunately, low budget tech can only shine if the whole show transcends RM’s necessarily inexpensive budget.  Large puppets remind us of The Bread and Puppet Theatre of the seventies who used giant puppets to present their work.  It was agitprop, certainly, as is tech in this production of Bilitis, but it worked because all of the B and P Theatre company was on the same page. 

Seasoning and experience will always pay off.  Applause to the entire company for sticking their collective neck out to tackle strong subject matter.  Perhaps backing off from technical challenges and focusing on the crux of the material might help.  Projections and puppets were more a distraction than helpful to engender confidence in the story.   Support new theatre.  The effort may show, but the company has heart and it’s in the right place.

Contains nudity (brief) and adult themes (not so brief).

Correction:  We previously listed the Rogue Artists Ensemble as another theatre company. Apologies

Song of Bilitis
Rogue Artists Ensemble presents at
Bootleg Theatre
2220 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Thru March 30, 2013 Thursday thru Saturday  @ 7:30PM (note early curtain time)
Tickets and information:
Bootleg Theater  213 596 9468 or

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