You may love it, you may hate it, you may leave the theater scratching your head and wondering “WTF was that about?” … but one thing is certain. There’s nothing else in town quite like the “militantly erotic epiphany for the 21st Century” that is Christopher Adams-Cohen’s Salome, the playwright/actor’s “radically queer reinvention of the ancient tale of [you guessed it] Salome.”
Unlike the Bible, Oscar Wilde, and Hollywood (Rita Hayworth on celluloid circa 1952) would have it, playwright Adams-Cohen reimagines quintessential bad girl Salome as a slender, long-haired, rather pouty, spoiled, rich gay 20something (Adams-Cohen in actor mode), who when not lounging on his filthy apartment’s red-velvet divan spends the rest of his time holding men like conflicted, masochistic Catholic priest John The Baptist (Doug Spearman) and hunky, occasionally stark naked roommate Indian Joe (Matt Raich) in his violently seductive spell.
None too happy with her son’s twisted sexual shenanigans, Salome’s cougar of a mom Herodias (Jacqueline Wright) would like nothing more than for sonny boy to sign away his share of the family estate in exchange for a generous monthly stipend. (Sorry, make that two things on her mind, since if Mama can seduce Indian Joe away from Salome, so much the better.)
Oh, and lest I forget, stopping by from time to time at what Herodias calls her son’s “halfway house for vagrant dilettantes” are Young Man (Soren Royer-McHugh) and Young Woman (Rachel Rivera), who pop pills and shoot smack in various states of undress.
Adventurous or pretentious? Christopher Adams-Cohen’s Salome is a bit of both, and filled with artificial dialog and artsy monologs played dead serious throughout (with a good deal of scenery-chewing and at least one case of brief but eye-popping full-frontal male nudity thrown in for good measure), all of which adds up to a production that may not be your grandmother’s cup of tea, but if you go with the flow, at the very least you won’t be bored, not if director Patrick Kennelly, his committed cast of actors, and above all a sensational design team have anything to do with it.
The always watchable Wright is clearly having one hell of a good time channeling Vivien Leigh in Blanche Dubois mode (with a bit of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford thrown in for good measure); ruggedly handsome Class Of 2015 Yale School Of Drama MFA grad Raich shows off acting chops equal to his considerable physical assets; and Spearman (of TV’s Noah’s Arc fame) does intense work as a priest with a penchant for bondage and domination.
As good a reason as any to check out Salome is its exciting old-is-new venue, the freshly converted basement space of Silver Lake’s Mack Sennett Studios, which scenic design superstar John Iacovelli and properties master Kevin Williams have converted into Salome’s cluttered mess of a studio, one that features a fully functioning shower that gets put to use by more than one sweaty naked character.
Lighting designer Pablo Santiago and sound designer/composer Jonathan Snipes join forces to stunningly hallucinogenic effect, while Lauren Oppelt’s eclectically styled costumes (including Herodias’s dominatrix garb and assorted jock straps) keep the Salome gang both clothed and unclothed.
Vaneh Assadourian is assistant director. Additional design/program credits go to Antoinette Adams (original murals), Jom Rivers, Andrew Santizo, and Beidi Zhang (mural painting assistants), John Garofalo (assistant lighting designer), and Kirsten Carey (assistant sound designer).
Kelly Egan is stage manager, Letitia Chang is assistant stage manager and David Mauer is technical director. Casting is by Raul Clayton Staggs.
Salome is produced by Lunar River LLC, Frederic Cohen & Antoinette Adams, Mary Blodgett & Carlton Calvin, Shirley Cohen, David Birnbaum, and Brian & Debra Spaulding. Laura Steinroeder is associate producer.
A play as ambitious and daring as Christopher Adams-Cohen’s could either score a bulls-eye … or turn out a hot mess. Salome ends up about half-and-half of each, but for those willing to take a ride on the wild side, it makes for one wild ride.
The Basement at Mack Sennett Studios, 1215 Bates Avenue, Los Angeles.
February 11, 2016
Photos: Marshall Astor (1-2), Trevor Baker (3-5),