With its five stages and vision for drama the Los Angeles Theatre Center is a powerful force to be reckoned with on the Downtown and theatrical scene. Exhibits “A” & “B” are two free form plays currently on LATC’s boards, which are compelling both in terms of content and style: Rickerby Hinds’ Dreamscape and Teatro Luna’s Generation Sex.
Although the latter is lighter in tone than the former (about a police shooting), while Generation Sex has humorous moments it is not, contrary to its self-billing, really a comedy. It is a pastiche of skits, scenes, songs, dance and more rendered through multi-media, including some crude animation and screen projections. There are, in no particular order, ruminations on: J Porn, lesbianism, S&M, the Santa Barbara mass murderer, twerking, Big Freedia of bounce music fame, sexual abuse, shadow play, feminism (or what passes for it), audience participation games, sexting and much more. So the subject matter ranges from the comic to the darkly tragic.
Five young female Gen X-ers, scantily clad in sleeveless shirts, short shorts and seamed black fishnet stockings, prance about the upstairs/ downstairs space of LATC’s Theatre 4, with the floor serving as a stage mostly devoid of sets and props. The opening has a glorious moment with the quintet emerging from behind a curtain where their silhouettes have been glimpsed and literally removing leashes. A taped version of the Grrrrrl power anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, by my former Richmond Hill High School classmate (when she wasn’t cutting classes and, you know, busy having fun) Cyndi Lauper, is heard.
But the play’s promise of unleashing female sexuality is never delivered and the idea that this is some sort of “shocking,” “outré” work about the sex lives of female Millennials is self-congratulatory pretentiousness. Watching five reasonably attractive young women romping about in outfits about as revealing as those worn by Rockettes or Dallas cheerleaders is not particularly daring in this day and age, although the play’s content can be more provocative.
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Written by 33 writers, Generation Sex is very grab bag in terms of styles and themes. But as the title suggests, what comes across as the show’s main unifying leitmotif (if you can call it that) is the role social media plays in Millennial sexuality. Like Sacred Fools’ Occupation, Generation Sex attempts to incorporate new digital media into the performance itself, with partial success.
The best vignette plays upon Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter-type travelogues, wherein Aussie-accented presenters lead viewers on an excursion “Down Under,” to the deepest, darkest regions of female anatomy. This is extremely clever, witty and well-acted and reminiscent of a Woody Allen bit. Pity the rest of the show’s episodes don’t live up to this level of imaginativeness and laughs. Nevertheless, this routine alone is worth the price of admission to Generation Sex.
Teatro Luna, which bills itself as “the nation’s only All-Latina theatre troupe,” is transplanting itself and/or some of its productions from Chicago to L.A. In any case, for what it’s worth, at least two of its five actresses did not appear to the naked eye (BTW, that’s the only nudity in this show) to be Hispanic, or, at least completely Latina. One appeared to this reviewer’s untutored Caucasian eyeball to be white and another African American - but I’ve been wrong before. Overall, after viewing this play the spectator is left with the dangling impression that the creators of this 70 or so minute collage are not now - and perhaps have never been - involved in a happy, intimate sexual relationship with another person that combines friendship and romance, in and out of bed.
This is the one-acter’s world premiere, as, according to press notes, “a fully developed work”, that’s directed by Alexandra Meda and “developed” by Abigail Vega. Generation Sex and Dreamscape remind us that while LATC is 86,000 square feet of theatre, it presents productions that are anything but square.
Generation Sex is being performed Thursday to Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and also at 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and on Sundays at 3:00 p.m., through May 17 in Theatre 4 of the Los Angeles Theatre Centre, 514 S. Spring St., CA 90013. For more info: (866) 811-4111; www.thelatc.org.