Los Angeles Theater Review: THE WHISKEY MAIDEN (Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood)

by Jason Rohrer on September 19, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Los Angeles Theater Review: THE WHISKEY MAIDEN (Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood)

LOS PECES VIOLENTOS

There is a dark parable in the bible, in Luke or maybe John; it’s in the Scheherazade – the tale of the thousandth night, perhaps. Your translation didn’t have every night, anyway you didn’t read that far, but you almost know it. It’s in the Talmud. It’s a legend your grandmother used to begin to tell and then lose the thread of over her knitting, after grandfather died, when she spent long hours staring into the garden.

Erin Fleming and Darrett Sanders star in the Theatre of NOTE World premiere production of THE WHISKEY MAIDEN, written and directed by Chris Kelley and now playing at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.It’s one of the lost plays of Aeschylus. A posthumous Albee. An Auden poem by Yeats. It’s in a corner of memory or creative imagination, nearly obscured and unreachable, but you think of it now and again when something brings it to mind.

It’s the fable of the beggar invited to the house of the rich man, of the failure seized by success, of the sinner at the gates of heaven. Or hell. Maybe it’s hell.

Maybe it’s Chris Kelley’s new play, The Whiskey Maiden. Maybe it’s that. This thing is so pure it feels a thousand years old, a nether-nether land that’s a familiar object even as it trespasses beyond expectation. The story tells of the blithe hobo Bill, a man ragged and happily free from attachment, summoned by a billionaire fixer whose home is a trap for the wanting sickness. The wife wants more possessions, the daughter wants more love, the servant wants a position, the old man wants revenge, and yet another hobo wants finally to belong someplace, before he shakes it off and wakes from the dream. Bill wants only to leave. But he doesn’t.

whiskey maiden production photo

The mythologies of independence and power collide. Memory and conscience fail. Families are bloodied. A vivid fish loses scales to thieves; a dead fish leaps onto the yacht. Stained glass tells tales. There be dragons. Angels may not be; probably are not; surely are not. The father is child to the son. The daughter is a monstrous fragility. The poetry of this world is so rich, floods so quickly from these mouths – Darrett Sanders’, mostly; six other fine actors’ as well – one wants to hold a glass under them, to scoop the liquor that got them here. Murder? Murder, on the wall, on the land, on the sea – there’s not a hand unbloodied in this place, or if there is, it’s been licked clean by a mouth you didn’t feel until it was too late.

Darrett Sanders and Carl J. Johnson star in the Theatre of NOTE World premiere production of THE WHISKEY MAIDEN, written and directed by Chris Kelley and now playing at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.

It’s a heady world, though, for all its wonder and surprise and humor a fairly dry world, too allegorical and plotted to impact the deep emotions, but not trying, maybe. A marvel of engineered event, directed with knife-edged tact by its author, the language a dancing fountain of wine, it is a fairy tale you wouldn’t recognize except for its, god damn it, its belonging to the pantheon. You know this one. It’s in Grimm…Andersen, maybe. The not-getting, the getting and yet not-having, the ignorance of knowing…maybe Mallory.

Chantelle Albers and Darrett Sanders star in the Theatre of NOTE World premiere production of THE WHISKEY MAIDEN, written and directed by Chris Kelley and now playing at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.

Maybe this is the perfect cabal to tell a dense and populated story in so spare and frugal a manner: these seven actors, Todd Pate’s set, Rebecca Raines’ lights, Jolie DeJohnette’s wardrobe, Hannah Dean’s props, Rebecca Kessin’s subversive sound design, stage managed to a dangerous ideal given Kelley’s blackout-to-blackout direction, yet it’s all exact and right. It can be scary, but it’s cool – the staging, the pictures are a distance in themselves. It can be chilling, engaging, but does not pander to move you; it’s sharp instead. It’s smart and persuasive and hot as Hades. It’s Hieronymus Bosch in words and movement. It’s a very good bad dream you should pray you only have here.

Darrett Sanders and Joe Mahon star in the Theatre of NOTE World premiere production of THE WHISKEY MAIDEN, written and directed by Chris Kelley and now playing at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.

The cast includes Joe Mahon, Erin Fleming, Chantelle Albers, Alexis DeLaRosa, Carl Johnson, and Doug Burch. All of them are correct.

photos by James Olsen & John Kenower

The Whiskey Maiden
Theatre of NOTE
1517 N Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood
ends on Saturday, October 24, 2015
for tickets, call 323-856-8611or visit theatreofnote.com

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