Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mae West: "M" as in . . .

The past is another country — — and MAE WEST was most comfortable there.
• • However, in her Broadway blockbuster "Diamond Lil" [1928] Mae's aim was not to resurrect the naughty nineties — — but to present that bygone decade's sins in shifty soft focus. The world of Diamond Lil, restrained by Victorian morality despite a certain cheeky daring, was a backwards glance to a time of innocence, picturesque entertainment, well-behaved wildness, corset-clad temptresses, The Police Gazette's seductions, and 5-cent beer.
• • Drama critic Stark Young [1881—1963] analyzed Mae's clever maneuvers in his article for The New Republic:
• • "Diamond Lil" is as daring in the end [as 1926's "Sex"], the same sexy morsels, embraces, interventions of the law with rank suspenses, frank speeches, underworld, and so on. But it is more covered, continuous, and studied than the other production, and the crowd of characters, the costuming and vaudevillistic intervals, pull the whole of this later play into a more familiar style, less crudely, and sheerly singular than "Sex" appeared to be [excerpt from The New Republic — 27 June 1928].
• • Louis Lopardi, who will direct "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship and Secrets" in July at the Algonquin Theatre, also feels enriched by the past. His own production — — The Purgatory Project, Part 2 — — reimagined the lives led by four famous historical figures: Sigmund Freud, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Lee Harvey Oswald.
• • A history buff as well as a thespian, Lopardi especially enjoys plays with a classical echo, texts rooted to a mythic past. For instance, he found "Metamorphoses," a play based on the Greek poem Metamorphoses by Ovid, fascinating and he relished the modernized adaptation written by Mary Zimmerman a few years ago. Ovid works onstage because those depictions of yearning and confused desires are timeless, feels Lopardi.
• • Since he has frequently decanted Ovid's ancient songs, he noticed right away the mythic skin underneath "Courting Mae West" — — the Brooklyn bombshell's story reimagined as the metamorphosis of King Midas. How you get the golden touch is one of the subtle sub-plots here. As Mae's career goals recalibrate her box office appeal, she will earn her hard cold slice of success — — but at a cost.
• • "I like a multi-layered comedy," admits Lopardi. "The best shows make you laugh for an hour and a half — — and then, untethered from your Playbill, you mull it over at home."
• • Bringing "Courting Mae West" to an audience requires funding. To support A Company Of Players, a non-profit theatre group established in 1979 to present meaningful theatre, please click on this link — — http://www.companyofplayers.com/support.htm
• • A Company Of Players is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 type organization, and donations to the group are considered a charitable, tax-deductible contribution.
• • Contribute through "Pay Pal" or you can mail a check to: A Company Of Players, 545 Eighth Avenue, #401, New York NY 10018-4307.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] soon after the Independence Day holidays.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • •
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Mae West.

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