"SEX" Mae West's impudent 1926 theatrical, rears its hoary head with a somewhat imaginative resurrection by Buzzworks Theatre Company at the Hudson in Hollywood. Revisiting the show that put the playwright / actress in jail for more than a week emerges ninety years after its premiere at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre in New York City.
At the age of 33, Ms West, writing as "Jane Mast" literally brought the term Roaring Twenties to life. The diminutive blonde, who would capture Hollywood a few years later, knew that her sultry sui generis style would be her ticket to ride.
"Imagine, if you will..." (in the voice of Rod Serling) "... a low down brothel in the Red Light District. It's 1920's Montreal. Stage right, a funky old upright piano with Hoagy Carmichael, a hand rolled butt hanging from his pouty lower lip, plays a Honky Tonk tune that fills the air. The 'girls' all lounge on velvet sofas as a couple of equally sleazy 'johns' stand uncomfortably across the room. A smokey haze hangs in the air. A blousy blonde undulating to the music moves behind the bar secretly watering drinks as the girls gesture alluringly to the fellas. The party atmosphere is tired. It's an office for the oldest profession. And, business is not booming."
At rise, however, none of the above. We see a tableau. Rocky ( Davey Johnson ... who was never a baseball hero) brags that he's about to 'score' big time with a society dame. Later as the story moves forward, Rocky returns to his brothel with Clara Stanton (versatile Susan Edwards Martin) who, as a somewhat 'mature' society lady from Connecticut, allows herself to be seduced! And, then, when slipped a 'mickey' is robbed and abandoned by Rocky! The cur!
Exposition with various characters, discusses their unhappy situations. As Margy LaMont, Andrea Hutchman, in a poorly chosen blonde wig, declares that she's "gettin' out." Rocky has other plans and declares that he owns her!
Introduction of the players lays out the polemic of how a woman in difficult circumstances yearns for a 'normal' life. One of Margy's favorite customers, Lt. Gregg (Wayne Wilderson), a dashing naval officer who genuinely loves her, after arriving for a 'session' asks her out on a real date!
With doubling, we meet a gaggle of hookers, low lifes and talented musicians as a musical number intrudes. Margy hooks up with a 'swell' guy, Jimmy Stanton (Ryan Phillips) who is immediately smitten and plays his guitar in tribute. Not knowing about Margy's past and profession Jimmy makes his move. Gregg demurs to allow Margy to marry into a wealthy family and escape the life that has held her captive.
It is difficult to judge from our early 21st century mores how West's take on Sex might have been received. Reports tell that the show ran for many weeks before being raided. In this Buzzworks production, director Sirena Irwin has created a situation that is neither fish nor fowl. Opportunities for broad comedy with takes to the audience and over the top presentation vary from scene to scene and character to character. All are talented players. Kudos to versatile David Errigo playing six including the French maid, Marie, presenting an amazing full splits in the tropical club scene!
|Andrea Hutchman (l.), Wayne Wilderson, Susan Edwards Martin Photo credit: Rich Hutchman|
Opportunities for staging and broad action, possibly with strobes to create a nickelodeon effect from time to time have not been realized. An interesting highlight is Michael Flannery's imaginative set changes with the dramatic release of a variety of colored curtains to indicate new locations, leaving the previous scene rumpled on the stage floor. Michael Mullan's appropriate costumes bring the Twenties to life.
SEX by Mae West
Hudson Main Stage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Opens May 12, 2018
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 7:00 PM
Through Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tickets may also be purchased at the Hudson box office.