Theater Review: MARGO VEIL (L.A. – Odyssey)

by Harvey Perr on June 16, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review: MARGO VEIL (L.A. – Odyssey)

THE SCHEHERAZADE OF POP CULTURE

There are a thousand and one ways to tell a story. In Margo Veil, Len Jenkin, one of our most intriguing and often exasperating playwrights, becomes a modern Scheherazade, weaving elements of contemporary pop culture into the ancient art of fable-making. And, in one of those rare moments when a playwright finds his perfect director, Jenkin has met his match in Bart DeLorenzo, who taps into the intricate imagination that informs Jenkins’s work and transforms it into a pull-all-the-stops-out visually inventive magical mystery tour.

margo veil In a dark room that seems to be the lobby of a hotel of someone’s dream, we seem to be plunged back into another time, with a rapid crossing over from story to story which is reminiscent of changing a radio dial, from station to station, from program to program. And when the startling image of an Alice falling endlessly down the rabbit hole – which transports us into the play proper (or improper, depending on how you take it in) – takes hold, we are all in free fall, as stories and characters change and both stories and characters begin to overlap each other, and the dream world that is created becomes, for ninety breathtakingly breathless minutes, a Wonderland of creative ideas.

There are playwrights and the bad actresses who ruin their plays, magicians and clones of magicians, blind Lithuanian milkmaids, a free-wheeling stoner and his blowsy mother who run some sort of tanning salon, a ham actor and his cohorts in a kind of theater that used to travel from state to state in times gone by (even before the invention of radio), train conductors, train rides and the bobbing up and down of train riders as they cross the country from city to city, from tale to tale, dancing merrily along the way. What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine, but it definitively captures the world inside the playwright’s head.

And it all takes place on the most extravagant set the Odyssey Theatre has ever housed,  courtesy of the fantastically talented Keith Mitchell, beautifully lit, in an attempt to bring a sense of film noir to the evening’s pop sensibility, by Lap Chi Chu. Add to this the always fabulous costume designs of Ann Closs-Farley, which includes a red dress that is bound to become part of one’s own dreams once the stage dream fades from memory.

And I haven’t even come to the actors, who slavishly do DeLorenzo’s bidding, carrying their interpretations of the multiple characters they are playing to the most dizzying extremes. They are all having such a good time that their spirit is contagious, even as they turn logic and credibility on its ear. They are Dorie Barton, Jeremy Shranko, Tom Fitzpatrick, Brittany Slattery, Don Oscar Smith (who may not be fat enough but who does a stunning impersonation of the great Sidney Greeenstreet’s distinctive voice), Daniel Bess, Lauren Campedelli, Colleen Kane, and, last but by no means least, Liz Davies.

Despite the razzle-dazzle of the production, there remains the nagging suspicion that the play itself may be on the empty side, and that a certain heartlessness creeps into the otherwise effective display of theatrical legerdemain. But it only proves that, in the end, style does trump substance and that real style is its own reward. Margo Veil is like no other play in town in terms of the purity of its stagecraft and the imaginative forces that inspired just that sort of purity.

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Enci

Margo Veil
scheduled to close July 31
for tickets, visit http://www.odysseytheatre.com or call (310) 477-2055

{ 1 comment }

Judy Chaikin June 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I love reading Harvey Perr’s reviews so much that on more than one occasion they have prompted me to actually buy tickets and go the the theater. Very few critics have that effect on me. Thank you Harvey for enriching my theatergoing life!
Judy Chaikin

Comments on this entry are closed.