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Robert Viagas is A Real Lulu

Lulu XX

Created by Ivan Talijancic and Erika Latta

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

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The general public has barely heard of Frank Wedekind’s seminal 1895 masterpiece Lulu, which is strange because this lurid and tragic odyssey of an irresistibly beautiful young woman prefigured the realism in theatre (and film and TV) of the coming 20th century.

Erika Latta, in her new 75-minute theatre/film piece titled Lulu XX, presented Off-Off-Broadway by The Wax Factory, makes few explicit references to the source material and eliminates the dominating male characters of the original story almost entirely. That’s interesting because so much of the original play was told through the male gaze that Lulu herself became something of a cypher. In Latta’s rethinking of the story, we get only the thoughts that might have been running around inside Lulu’s head as she navigates a world where women are revered, desired and put on pedestal at one extreme, but objectivized, trivialized and subjected to violence at the other

Like the original Lulu, Lulu XX is divided into sections, but these are presented as hashtags, #ladyinwaiting, #autopsy, #noir, #pandora, etc. Though Wedekind (best known for his later play, Spring Awakening, source material for the Tony-winning musical) created the character of Lulu in the late evening of the 19th century, Latta and Talijancic’s Lulu launches on an odyssey through the 20thand 21s centuries through a cascade kaleidoscopic media images, many of them full of sex and danger, like the original. They are displayed in an Ames-Room-like stage designed to skew the audience’s perspective and make objects and often Lulu herself seems larger or smaller.

Latta is the only performer who speaks. A generally silent male and female duo move scraps of scenery on and off.

Over the 125 years since her creation, the character of Lulu has inspired many versions and influenced better known iterations, including the films Pandora’s Box and The Blue Angel, Alban Berg’s opera Lulu,  the TV movie Lulu, and the bizarre Lou Reed / Metallica musical collaboration Lulu. Latta and Talijancic now add a new 21st century Lulu who is thoroughly woke and, for the first time, thoroughly herself.

Lulu XX  had a limited run at the Connolly Theatre in the East Village section of Manhattan.


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