Saturday, March 23, 2019

Love's Merry-Go-Round Spins in Cutting Ball's La Ronde

La Ronde

Ella Ruth Francis and Jeunee Simon Photo: Cheshire Isaacs

based on Arthur Schnitzler’s play Reigen
translated by Eric Bentley
directed by Ariel Craft

Cutting Ball Theater
Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., SF

March 14 – April 14, 2019

Reviewed by Christine Okon

Turn the pages back through the ages
What are their names? Just you and I...
Love's Roundabout from the movie La Ronde (1950)

In his charming 1950 film La Ronde, director Max Ophuls lets us peek at the endless waltz of desire, need and connection that is so very basically human, male or female.

Although the script calls for five women and five men, Cutting Ball Theater’s production of La Ronde features two women, EIla Ruth Francis and Jeunee Simon, as the ensemble of all 10 characters to illustrate a new dance of sex, power, and sheer desire.

In Cutting Ball’s tiny box theater on Taylor St, the audience sits in a circle as the two actors sexually shapeshift in and out of the 10 roles. Like Tinder-swiping voyeurs, we watch the Whore hook up with the Soldier, the Soldier with the Maid, the Maid with the Gent, the Gent with the Wife, the Wife with the Husband, the Husband with the Lil’ Miss, the Lil’ Miss with the Poet, The Poet with the Actress, the Actress with the Count, and the Count with the Whore with whom the story begins.
 Jeunee Simon and Ella Ruth Francis Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
Francis and Simon both play the light and shadow of each character under the precise and playful direction of Ariel Craft (also the new Artistic Director of Cutting Ball), moving in sync with the equally exact lighting (Cassie Barnes) and sound (James Ard) cues such as drapes being opened or a snorer wheezing next door. Simple costumes (Morgan May Louie) hang on the walls to allow quick character changes. 
Jeunee Simon (The Count) and Ella Ruth Francis  (The Whore) Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
With powerful pas-de-deux of acting and movement, Francis and Simon reveal how each character is changed by sexual interaction, from trampled innocence to jaded disappointment. Especially amusing is Simon’s stuttering Count as he tries to regain composure after an interlude.
Jeunee Simon and Ella Ruth Francis Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
Cutting Ball's La Ronde offers the most explicit sex you can have on stage without nudity or physically obvious acts. With the speed-dating pace of the play not offering much time to think, I just let my body react. La Ronde invites the audience to be as aroused or put off as they wish; it makes no difference because the dance will continue anyway.

La Ronde
by Arthur Schnitzler
translated by Eric Bentley
directed by Ariel Craft

Cutting Ball Theater
Exit Theater, 277 Taylor St. SF

March 14 – April 14, 2019
Box Office at 415-525-1205

Ensemble - Ella Ruth Francis and Jeunee Simon

Costume Designer - Morgan May Louie
Lighting Designer - Cassie Barnes
Sound Designer - James Ard
Properties Designer - Adeline Smith
Scenic Consultant - Randy Wong-Westbrooke
Intimacy Choreographer - Maya Herbsman

Watch the trailer:

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