Co-Creators: Erika Latta, Ivan Talijancic
Director: Ivan Talijancic
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
WaxFactory’s latest project at the Connelly Theater, Lulu XX, is in fact a resurrection of a piece co-creators Erika Latta and Ivan Talijancic first developed in 1999. In today’s sociopolitical climate, this downtown performance art piece proves timely. Using the works of Frank Wedekind and Alban Berg as inspiration (peppered with references to various and sundry other art and pop culture errata), Lulu XX is an examination of the expression of woman’s journey through the male gaze.
On a stark, forced perspective set designed by Talijancic, Latta rapidly changes personas as different ideations of the idealized Lulu. As victim, as femme fatale, as model, as high society, as a criminal, and as many others. With stunning, palpable, sometimes deliberately-blinding lighting by Paul Hudson, Lulu XX is far more an installation piece than narrative theatre. The piece is deliberately alienating and grotesque at times, unafraid of settling into darkness and silence so often eschewed in live performance. This show is best encountered as an experience of loosely structured stream-of-consciousness rather than a cause-and-effect linear story.
Despite the stunning work that has gone into this play, unless the viewer is intimately familiar with Wedekind and Berg’s Lulus (as this reviewer admittedly is not), the experience feels more style than substance. Even with a strong feminist backbone, the dramaturgical flesh pales beneath the flash of a Lower East Side art-scene aesthetic. Though Lulu XX can be applauded for not striving to make the audience comfortable, it does not quite hit the punch one hopes for in their discomfort. Perhaps intimate knowledge of the source material changes the viewer’s experience, but for those seeing the piece on its own, it can have a veneer of self-indulgence. That is not to say these artists are self-indulgent or the piece in and of itself is, but it is the occasional payoff of intentionally-unsettling multimedia experiences.
Lulu XX will be deeply enjoyed by a very specific audience, one that has a touchpoint in the source material and is excited by multimedia performance art. It is undeniably well-executed, but ultimately too esoteric for those without niche knowledge to fully appreciate.
Runs until 28 September, 2019 | Photo Credit: Tasja Keetman