[sic] & Blasted

Hosted by

This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk.

Two years ago, the most talked about off-Broadway play was a work that no one seemed to know how to say. The play was titled [sic], but spelled s-i-c with brackets around it. [sic] of course is a term used when quoting someone to show that a mistake was intended; but in Melissa James Gibson-s play, it also refers to the detached way many people in their 20-s and 30-s behave, as if their whole lives are intentional and ironic mistakes.

Sacred Fools Theater Company is currently presenting the Los Angeles premiere of Gibson-s [sic], which might be best described as an episode of Seinfeld as imagined by Ionesco. This production gives one a sense of the clever use of language that earned the play an Obie award; however, [sic] feels more like a work that promises Gibson-s talent rather than confirms it.

Also receiving its L.A. premiere this summer, is another notable work by a female playwright that many people have called sick.

Sarah Kane once described her first play, Blasted, as a &quotpeaceful; play about hope," a work that shows how the seeds of war are planted in normal everyday events; London critics, however, described Blasted as 'a disgusting piece of filth' and 'a systematic trawl through the deepest pits of human degradation.'

Make no mistake, Blasted does not provide a casual evening out at the theater - it is a profoundly disturbing work, one that includes graphic depictions of fellatio, frottage, urination, defecation, rape, eye gouging and cannibalism.

Blasted premiered in 1995 - the year that Damien Hirst won the Turner Prize, Britain-s most coveted award for visual artists. Hirst was famous for his works that consisted simply of dead animals floating in formaldehyde. When he took the prize, it opened the floodgates for shock art. Naturally, Hirst and the other Young British Artists of the 90-s were denounced, like Kane, but eventually this type of shock art became more or less accepted. Much of this was due to the high-prices these works earned in auctions, but it also stemmed from the lack of depth or true feeling behind much of the art. Sliced sheep segments and pornographic mannequins are shocking, but they are about as profound as bumper sticker slogans and the minute the shock wears off, the work becomes harmless kitsch.

Like the Young British Artists, Kane clearly felt that audiences in the 1990-s needed a jolt; but unlike much of the &quotSensationalist;" art, Kane-s plays don-t have an ironic twist that lets viewers off the hook. Her work is not about shock for shock-s sake. Blasted is a deeply felt and brutally articulated theatrical essay about violence in the so-called civilized world. Not everyone will agree with Kane-s vision, but it is hard to ignore the assured dramatic hand and burning intelligence behind the words and actions.

Those theatergoers daring enough to want to experience Kane-s depiction of hell as a hotel room in Leeds, should make their way to Burbank this weekend to catch Blasted in its first production here in Los Angeles.

The staging, courtesy of the Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, is not ideal, but more than serviceable for those wanting a taste of Kane. Dave Barton-s set design is simple, but effective; however, his direction of the actors, both in their vocal interaction and blocking, is often confusing, None of the three actors makes much of an impression, which is problematic because Kane-s work demands strong personalities who can break through the rubble of mayhem that the playwright literally fills the stage with.

Watching this production, one can clearly see Kane-s intense outrage, but one can also see Kane-s immaturity. Like [sic], Blasted should be viewed as work that shows talent and promises greater things to come. Sadly, Kane was to write only four more plays in her brief career. Four years and one month after the premiere of Blasted, Kane hung herself in her London flat.

Blasted runs until this Sunday at the GTC Burbank, [sic] continues at the Sacred Fools Theater through August 14th.

This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk for KCRW.