Maarika Pinkney and Michael David Blostein get intimate in ...la ronde....
…LA RONDE… by Arthur Schnitzler, directed by Ted Witzel (the red light district). At Wicked (1032 Queen West). To June 4. $20-$25, stu $15. theredlightdistrict. ca. 416-669-5582. See listing. Rating: NNN
The Red Light District has done exciting renditions of older European plays like Woyzeck and The Misanthrope, reimagining both their aesthetic and cultural value. Now Ted Witzel has taken Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde and set the 19th-century Viennese script in a downtown sex club. Still, the show is less adult than entertainment, favouring the brighter side of Schnitzler's involved text.
Witzel's ... la ronde... exposes an almost adolescent fascination with sexuality that charms and engages. Club Wicked, with its gilded mirrors and red walls, emphasizes the funhouse salaciousness of sexual pursuit, the 10 characters (several of them queer) and their respective hook-ups playing out like a dogged, sweaty waltz.
Often titillating for laughs, the sex is expressed figuratively - like the neurotic playwright (Eve Wylden) and the feng-shui-loving actor (Maarika Pinkney) who bang rocks together, wailing like dying loons. The performers are agile and unembarrassed as they grope and gyrate, continually asking partners, "Are you not fond of me?"
Witzel efficiently uses nearly every surface of the club, but the scenes that allow the performers some stillness feel sharper. Designers Erin Telegdi and SJ Thiessen's black-and-pink costumes are initially striking but become campy and one-note as the show progresses.
Witzel's adaptation is occasionally sensitive, but it's too bad the syphilitic undercurrent that interested Schnitzler is left out, and the strange mixture of modern and old-fashioned language confuses both the tone and period.
The show revels in the cheeky innocence of the young and horny, and though the sexual carousel goes up, the downs are left mostly unexplored.