Sunday, December 7, 2003
Despite a few technical downfalls, Kansas University's production of "Lulu" at the Inge Theatre is worth the price of admission. The five-act play by Frank Wedekind tells the story of the title character. Abused and prostituted by her father, Lulu wanders through life using her sexuality as a means to control and discard both men and women alike until meeting an untimely demise at the hands of a notorious serial killer.
Samara Naeymi turned in a stellar performance as the deceivingly delicate harlot. She effortlessly evoked a sense of pity for the sordid character despite her cunning ways. The play opens with a glimpse into Lulu's marriage to the disgusting Dr. Goll. Her spouse suspiciously dies, as do his replacements, throughout the course of the action. Lulu's ongoing, torrid affair with Dr. Schoning offers a real glimpse of Lulu's depravity, and Naeymi was especially convincing in these scenes.
Other cast members who delivered top performances were Brandon DeLany as one of Lulu's lover-turned-spouses, Alwa Schoning. Delany's performance highlighted some of the lighter, comedic elements in the show. His physical devotion to the character was magnificent. Phillip Vocasek, who played several roles, including Jack the Ripper, most shined as Lulu's cohort, Dr. Schoning. Vocasek clearly captured the inner struggle between loving Lulu and escaping her crafty ways.
Although all the actors turned in fine performances, other theatrical aspects needed work. Intercutting the five acts of the play were film sequences done by Matt Jacobson, assistant professor of theater and film. The short vignettes were beautifully shot and edited; however, the vocal accompaniment provided by some of the play's minor characters was distracting. It felt a bit like stumbling into a karaoke bar on amateur night. The songstresses, off key several times, performed on a platform while dressed in seductive negligees. It was an interesting device of modern theater, but the execution could use some fine tuning.
Time and place also could have been established more firmly. The program stated that the action was meant to evoke the 1870s, 1900, the late 1920s/1930s, the 1970s and now. The film clips and musical numbers before intermission clearly evoked the modern day, but it was unclear when the other time periods began and ended.
Despite those few technical aspects, "Lulu" is a very engaging play. Director Patricia Ybarra expertly staged a complex show that has been adapted and interpreted numerous times.