Los Angeles Theater Review: PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR (Theatre Asylum / Hollywood Fringe Festival)

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by Tony Frankel on June 17, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Who has been accused of being a Sexual Reprobate? Satirist? Socialist? Philosopher? The precursor to Freudian psychology and existentialism? Woman-hating pornographer? An ideal of freedom? If you mentioned the American Senate circa 1915, you’re only partially right. No, the answer is the Marquis de Sade (1740 –1814), a French aristocrat, philosopher, and author. His infamous writings on libertinism – the practice of unrestrained and uninhibited sexual and social freedom – made him a scandalous figure. But his own disregard of religion and authority – not to mention acts of pedophilia and sodomy – had him in and out of prisons and asylums throughout his 74 years. Today, he would probably have his own Reality TV show.

One of his many writings is a play called Philosophy in the Boudoir, and if you attend Brazilian Company Os Satyros’s production at the Hollywood Fringe, you will find out what it feels like to be raped for only fifteen bucks. Only those who have studied de Sade — and/or see him as some kind of god — and the most prurient — and/or die-hard — Fringers need apply. It is the story of a libertine and married aristocrat, Juliette, who is not just screwing her servants, her brother, and random men, but does so with all manner of debauchery and lewd behavior. She has taken it upon herself to “educate” a young virgin named Eugénie in the ways of libertinism. Assisting her in this home-schooling is the suave but remarkably uptight Dolmancé. After Eugénie is loosened up, her Catholic mother, Mme. de Mistival, arrives just in time to be raped by the hostess and stabbed by her daughter. Now, how fun is that?

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.In between the cunnilingus and carnage are some interesting de Sade musings, while the brave actors, many of whom simply cannot act and/or have thick Brazilian accents, free their willies and flash their flaps. The script is choppy, inchoate, uncohesive, and unpalatable. And Director Rodolfo Garcia Vazquez is clearly unaware that scandalous theater isn’t good theater; this show has about as much nuance as that woman I saw having sex with a horse in an Amsterdam video arcade. I can no sooner get that image out of my head than what I saw at the Asylum Theatre.

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.But I wasn’t offended by the full-frontal nudity, the finger probing, the simulated anal sex, the blasphemy, the masturbation, the sadism (named after de Sade himself) or the scatology (this show ain’t got nothin’ on John Waters’ Pink Flamingoes, in which Divine extruded fresh, steaming-hot poodle shit through her teeth). In fact, those elements made me feel right at home in Hollywood. The one saving grace – and most necessary distraction – was the consistently naked actor Davi Tostes as “The Statue.” Not only is he one of the most exquisite movement artists I have ever seen, but I’m not kidding when I say that he could be one of the world’s top models. Or maybe I liked him because he didn’t have any lines.

I saw a friend in the audience after the show. Having not seen her in a year, I went to hug her. “No, please,” she murmured. “Please don’t touch me.” I laughed and went for the hug anyway. She put up her hands in quiet protest. “No,” she said. Her next line sounded like a frightened plea. “Don’t. Touch. Me.” Wow, that libertine de Sade is really liberating, huh?

photos by Guilherme / Os Satyros

Philosophy in the Boudoir
Os Satyros in association with Combined Artform
Theatre Asylum
part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival
ends on June 29, 2013
for tickets, visit Hollywood Fringe

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