Theater Review: FROZEN FLUID (Coeurage & L.A. LGBT Center)

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by Tony Frankel on November 20, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


The subtitle of Fly Jamerson‘s Frozen Fluid, which opened Saturday night at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre, is “An Antarctic Gender Non-Conforming Creation Myth.” Don’t say you weren’t warned going in. I wasn’t bored, and there were even some sweet moments, but what started as a deconstruction of three scientists working at the Pole as ice caps are melting rapidly in the not-so-near future, becomes performance art. But unlike some East Village dive where a lesbian shouts about her vagina, one character, Tay (a name this self-identifying nonbinary got from the mis-pronouncement of “they”) is trying to figure out how to identify in spite of having a vagina. Tay is greeted when arriving at a Research Station lab by Herman, a character who is embarrassed to tell anyone he is really named Vernon, and Terra, an earth mother scientist who wants to save the whales. The heat is forcing the whales to beach, where the dying leviathans are harpooned by the scientists, so Tay, a fellow phytoplankton scientist, has come to assist.

Yvonne Cone
Yvonne Cone, Michael Budd

There is a basket of blankets going into the theater, and I took one, but it was a ruse. The in-the-round theater sure looked cold, thanks to Diana Herrera‘s blue lighting and the Northern Lights projected on the stage. With Dean Harada‘s New Age piano tinkling and set designer Jeanine Ringer‘s argyle-patterned white PVC pipes on the walls, and sound designer Joe Calarco‘s scary booms in the distance (the sound was excellent throughout), we definitely got a dying Antarctica. I was so entranced by the feel of it that the cryptic lunacy, which ensued after a voiceover explains the life process of this region, didn’t bother me at all. To a point.

 Yvonne Cone

We may well be in Antarctic as the program says, but that doesn’t gibe. Once dialogue started repeating, and once the cast executed avant-garde Martha Graham moves (Charmy Marras, choreographer), and once they started cutting themselves open, and once they dressed alike — sometimes in parkas, sometimes in black Dr. Denton’s footed sleepers (costumes by Kyla McCracken) — and once pee cups fell from the sky, and once it got to giraffe and elephant shadow puppets, I gave up trying to figure it all out. It’s performance art all the way (although seemingly with a better budget than a bare stage in SoHo), and you’re frozen in it. Coeurage Ensemble‘s production (co-produced by Los Angeles LGBT Center) is not phantasmagoric, but it is like a dream. A 90-minute dream that feels much longer than it is.

Nicole Delsack

Attitudes about transgender issues  — the entire queer community, really — and religion and the belief systems we are born into used to be frigid, but now they’re melting. In vignettes following purposefully plodding scene changes by director Amanda McRaven, Tay (a very charming Nicole Delsack) reads from genesis about Adam and Eve and how the infamous rib of Adam actually translates to “side”; they lament that mom and dad “should have asked” (asked what? and when? at seven, a child should be asked who they identify as?) and why don’t parents offer condolences for naming them (“I’m sorry I named you” they want to hear); and later, Tay will read stories from the Torah and the Bible that are now decidedly trans-friendly. Indeed there are some wonderful and powerful universalities and tropes about naming and identity, but without an emotional arc, the play remains basically cerebral as Jamerson uses characters to examine the many questions that come with figuring out identity. But Terra’s frustration at being called a scientist when she wants to save whales, and Herman (a goofy Michael Budd), embarrassed to tell Terra (funny Yvonne Cone) that he re-named himself, does not a dramatic arc make.

Michael Budd

Yes, the caps have melted, but Antarctica looks to be re-freezing. Now, as the air-conditioning goes up full blast in the theatre, new creatures can arise from the sea and start over. A new beginning at the end of the world signifies a new beginning for our thought processes and the climate and possibly even religion. But without any emotion to cling to, it gets awfully chilly. Literally. You’ll be glad you grabbed a blanket.

Yvonne Cone, Michael Budd

photos by Zev Rose Woolley

Frozen Fluid
Coeurage Ensemble and Los Angeles LGBT Center
Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre
1125 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood
ends on December 17, 2023
Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 7, beginning Dec. 1
for tickets, ($30–$45), visit Coeurage or lalgbtcenter
$10 Pay What You Want tickets available for every performance

Michael Budd

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