KCST began their run of Lulu last night in the Lerner Black Box Theater. We sent staffer Megan Fillion to check out the show and bring us some notes. Another show will take place tonight at 8 PM. All tickets are sold out, but a waiting list will begin at 7 PM.
If any of you wicked-minded weirdoes are like me, the promise of fake blood, depictions of suicide and drug use in the content-warning convinced you on the spot to attend the psychedelic, out of this world play. KCST provided us poor, entertainment-seeking students with a modern interpretation of Frank Wedekind’s play “Lulu,” which revolves around the themes of sexuality, hypocrisy, and deceit. The play centers on a desirable young girl named Lulu. Any man – or woman – who lays eyes on her falls to their knees with overwhelming desire and want. Wedekind’s play brings us through Lulu’s life, starting with her first marriage to a rich, high-standing man, and ending with her death at the hands of one of her lovers. Already, the plot of this drama-filled play is hard to handle due to intensity, but when you pair that with this modern, almost gruesome stage environment, you really get an overwhelming experience.
Frank Wedekind’s “Lulu” was published in 1904, meaning that the themes of overwhelming desire and homosexuality were not well accepted by the society back then. Although today we are more desensitized to sex and murder, Producer Philip Anastassiou upheld Wedekind’s will to shock the public by placing the play in a rave-like environment. Even though the plot-line of the play is enough to distress anyone, the stage management brought this adaptation of “Lulu” to a whole other level. The harsh strobe lights paired with rave music and the small room only fortified the underlying gruesomeness of the play. Although the sex, the killing, and the suicidal monologues are all actions performed on stage, the harsh and intense lighting was a way of dragging the crowd in, making the audience feel even more uncomfortable. Anyone in the audience would feel drugged up just observing the action take place.
The fact that the cast is small only played in their favor. Although most of them had to play different characters, the costumes were well defined and the changes were fluid. The cast was well selected and they knew how to work together. Being actors in a very physical way, the students did an astonishing job playing off each other’s bodies and making the physical abuse seem real.
Although the cast in general was phenomenal, the character of Lulu, played by Alexandra Warrick, stood out to the crowd. She knew how to have a presence on the stage. What I also found interesting is that the director modified Lulu’s character in this interpretation. In the older interpretations, Lulu is seen as a stoic character, mostly due to how she reacted to her early husbands’ death. In this version, the producers depicted Lulu as a multi-dimensional character. She was strong and dominative at times, and vulnerable at others. And I think what stood out the most in Warrick’s acting was her ability to portray this sudden change in character. She knew how to use her body to her advantage. She knew how to make her body soft and pliable at times, yet knew how to also make it look strong. She could manipulate the crowds simply with her facial expressions. One second you would see her crying on the ground and the next you’d see her stand up straight with a piercing look and crooked smile that just made you want to take your clothes off.
While the production of the show was stellar, the the underlying “moral” of the story was hard to depict. Even the central themes of the play aren’t well defined, which makes it hard to get the play off your mind when you leave. The underlying sentiment of the play is the story of a girl who tries to find her identity through exploring her sexuality. On one hand, her sexuality can be seen as freeing and empowering, but on the other, its what leads her to ruins and eventually her death. When others desired her, it led to rape-like situations because they just couldn’t contain their lust, but when she desired others, she was left in a vulnerable, yearning position. But sex was the only way she would have control over a man. So, what could have Lulu done to free herself in her society in the 1800’s? Was her sexuality a quality that freed her or further caged her?
So do me a favor – if any of this interested you and you consider yourself a dark soul with a twisted mind and you don’t have anything to do tonight, stop by the Lerner Black Box. The show’s free, so you have nothing to risk, and I promise you will have a strangely pleasant and disturbing time.
Poster via the show’s Facebook event page