“The moment I saw your head shot….”
Only in Los Angeles would this line be an entre into licentiousness, so “Starfu*king” by Sharon Lintz, now enjoying its premiere as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, covers terrain that is immediately recognizable to LAers.
In six vignettes Lintz provides us with characters caught up in differing complications of sensuality and identity which form the crux of desires.
First you have Martin (Stephen DeCordova), a producer addressing himself to an unseen actress who’s come to audition for him.
But as happens in such encounters, landing the part is contingent on more than the actress’ line reading. The producer has something else in mind, as he reminisces about his childhood, and mother, about a time when women, of a certain social class, wouldn’t dream of going out onto the streets of New York, unless dressed to latest style.
The women of Martin’s youth, his mother and all her friends, sought escape from their dreary existences of fourth floor walk ups in Queens by fitting themselves out in imitation of the stars of the silver screen, reflections of Dietrich or Garbo.
If Martin realizes what fragile facades these were, it doesn’t matter. He pines for the replication of the Hollywood glamour that surrounded him as a child, languishing, like so many do, for illusions given reality in memories’ reflections.
Most of all he longs for that crucial constituent of those black and white fantasies, now the most forbidden of all vices – smoking.
Martin’s ecstasy is found in the capnolagnia pleasure of watching the silken white ribbon of smoke curling from a woman’s mouth.
From here Lintz takes us blithely through the story of naïve Mary (Kelly Schumann) who tumbles onto the world of adult filmmaking as accidently as Alice tripped down the rabbit hole. She treats us to the tale of Randy (Blaine Vedros) in which oral sex and the ghost of Kurt Cobain are co-mingled, and that of Ruben (Tory Devon Smith) who dons a disguise to enter the world of his straight-laced brother or perhaps dons a disguise to escape it.
Next she brings us to Patty (Dawn Joyal), who is anchoring her life in what is perhaps that greatest of illusions – hope.
We end on Jake (Ali Allie) and Meagan (Katy Yoder), a “john” and his hired “escort”, sharing a motel bed for the third time, as they sit fully dressed watching John Boorman’s “Zardoz” on the room’s TV.
The scenes, for all their audacity, are etched with a calm dignity, and clever writing that display a twisted appreciation of the absurdity that expresses itself in what people desire, or tell themselves they do.
Reading in the program that her credits are almost exclusively for “comics”, one could dismiss Lintz’s short play as sketch comedy and nothing more.
That would be a mistake, for from the ranks of cartoon artists have emerged some unique talents: Tim Burton, Federico Fellini, and Jules Fiefier with whom Lintz seems to share a certain sensibility.
Comedy is a means of covering many sins, and we tend to be very forgiving when we’re laughing.
Generally we aren’t very demanding of humorous works, so it follows that those works tend not to be overly ambitious. Therefore it is unusual to find beneath the surface of what appears merely a piece of fluff, a decidedly strong current of intelligence and intent as there is in “Starfu*king”.
In a subtle re-working of Arthur Schnitzier’s “La Ronde”, Lintz has turned focus not on the hypocrisy of sexual conventions, but rather, on the hypocrisy of our own desires.
All her characters appear possessed of some fetishism or appetite or fixation, seemingly outside or beyond their abilities to satisfy, not true desires which can be fulfilled, which can bring pleasure.
Every fetish or obsession of a sexual nature is in actuality an erotic solution we create in hopes of finding release from a real world anxiety.
The distinction between a genuine desire and that counterfeit desire we employ to deceive ourselves is easy to deduce. The former frees us, the ladder threatens us with smallness.
Lintz seems to understand the nature of humor, as a good comic artist must, that humor serves as the veil of humanity, and that beneath laughter we hide what is the most painful.
What is beneath the laughter of Lintz’s play?
Detachment, inadequacy, loneliness, negation of self, dishonesty, denial, fears of mortality.
Oddly enough, these are the exact qualities that function as the essential building blocks of desire as well.
Eric G. Johnson wisely employs a light touch in his direction. In the circular progression of the narrative the connections here are woven with gossamer not chain links.
Johnson’s craft is apparent in the trust he shows his cast and the material, a trust that allows him to place before his audience a piece that is not unlike a Japanese puzzle box.
Deceptively simple at first glance, but look closely and then the secret slides are discovered, the concealed latches found.
Then suddenly the simple box expands to reveal what is within.
In the hands of a lesser director you would not have had a puzzle box on stage, but a prancing elephant in a chinchilla tutu.
Johnson has also gathered an impressive cast for this piece, actors who do not trade the integrity of their performances for belly laughs. For as outrageous as the situations are on stage, Johnson allows no caricatures, and his actors present none.
DeCordova, opens the piece on the perfect note of understated truthfulness which succeeds in luring the audience into an intimacy that carries on through to the final scene.
Kelly Schumann is touching as the young woman desperate to find acceptance, even if that acceptance is a drug fueled shallow sham.
Blaine Vedros is excellent as the stud muffin who finally finds what he imagines is the secret to a sexual activity often mistaken for the name of the Irish National Airlines.
Tory Devon Smith is featured in the solo segment “The Way I am”. Returning from a less than satisfactory luncheon with his older brother, he strips away his suit and tie as he laments the strained relationship with his sibling. At some point it strikes the audience how very much more he is stripping away, until finally he stands there a different person from the one he began. A transformation Smith executes with stunning skill.
Next we meet Patty, a woman, who bemoans all that is gone from her life as a means of clinging onto what she has left of it. Dawn Joyal brings a sweetness and vulnerability to the part that makes the scene’s revelation all the more excruciating.
Finally you have Meagan (Katy Yoder) a perplexed escort sitting in a hotel with Jake (Ali Allie) a regular client who seems to want nothing more than to sit on the motel bed with her and watch old movies.
We have arrived at the logical terminus when one cloaks their deceptions as desires.
A point devoid of passion, or even the understanding of what passion should be.
Where we just sit numbly watching a movie about a man who realizes his life has been ruled by a little voice coming from a huge mask.
Yoder and Allie bring all the uncertainty these two characters share and forge it into a bittersweet conclusion.
But whether the play’s conclusion is the ending is a question left unanswered, for the play folds back in on itself.
Is it the hell that these seven characters are condemned to?
Always to be longing and never to know fulfillment, that is indeed a hell.
Perhaps in the final blackout, it’s not a never ending cycle of cheap motels, chemo treatments, and self-delusions where Lintz leaves her characters.
Perhaps it is a second chance.
Starfucking continues at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival at the Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way LA. CA. 90038
Remaining showtimes are:
Wednesday June 17 2015, 8:30 PM
Saturday June 20 2015, 10:00 PM
Sunday June 21 2015, 1:00 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 7:00 PM
The show runs one hour, tickets are $12. Go here for tickets and more information.