Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

Oh, Oscar! – The author’s “Salome” gets harsh treatment in Alhambra

The cast of Mozaic Lizard Theater's "Salome" confront each other and the moon.

NOTE: MY PRINT EDITOR WAS ADVISED THE DAY AFTER THIS REVIEW POSTED THAT THIS PRODUCTION HAS BEEN CLOSED.

I love seeing comparatively obscure works by major authors. Sometimes the plays an author is not known for can tell one a great deal that the famed works, having been so continuously examined, cannot. This is particularly true in the case of a piece like Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” – a work banned in his home country when it was written – as it provides further proof that its author was ahead of his time, as Wilde often was.

So, imagine my excitement when tiny Mosaic Lizard Theater announced their production of “Salome” at their theater in downtown Alhambra. I just wish the production had allowed for any of Wilde’s innovative psychological framework to emerge. As it is, the Lizard production shares more in common with the more pedantic high school drama club offerings than anything which could – as this play should – shock, disturb or teach.

The tale takes off from the Biblical story of Salome, the daughter of King Herod’s wife, and Herod’s predecessor. Herod’s fascination for his virginal but sexually interesting step-daughter is matched, in this telling, by Salome’s passionate attraction to the unattainable John the Baptist – crying his warnings from a cistern being used as Herod’s prison. Romantic yearning and sexual manipulation meet in a startling, psychologically disturbing end.

Or, they should. Although Jose Garcia makes an intense and interesting Herod, that’s just about it. Zach Guzman’s stiff John (called, for obscure reasons, Jokanaan) barks the prophesies with none of the passionate intent which inspires the Salome of the script.

Itzul Virgin is admittedly lovely, but significantly lacking in the sensual energy one expects of Salome herself. Her speeches, often very fast, very quiet and at significant moments aimed upstage into a hole, suffer from unintelligibility. Her final moments of grotesque victory, which should be richly disturbing, fall flat because it all seems kind of by rote. Her dance, choreographed by Calista Ruiz to an odd tune peculiarly reminiscent of “Three Blind Mice,” manages to unsex one of the most famous moments in the Bible.

And, unfortunately, nobody else handles their parts much better. Though Erikson Erise and Ruben Aguilar do decent work with John’s rather myopic guards, Anthony Jr. Suarez makes the potentially tragic foreign captain oddly unmotivated. Bryana Pickford’s version of Salome’s mother seems to be operating at a slightly different RPM from her supposed husband. Under director Jay Parker it’s all just a dull hum, where it should be heated and peculiarly, symbolically sensual.

And there are basic technical flaws, the most egregious of which are the constant mispronunciations of everything from “Chaldeans” to “tapestry.” For this there is no excuse.

One positive note has to be Caudia Estrada’s evocative, colorful costuming. It sets the right tone for what one should be seeing develop. Yet, in the end, this play fails not because it is obscure but because its cast, for the most part, lacks the passion and connection which would make it work. What a pity.

What: “Salome” When: runs indefinitely, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Where: Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St. in Alhambra How Much: $12 general, $10 students/seniors Info: (626) 457-5293 or http://www.lizardtheater.com

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