Delicate 'Crimes of the Heart'; 'L.S.D.': aims high, but falls short
Pushing the text It's a production that makes Boston Shakespeare Company director Peter Sellars's romps with classic texts seem the work of a realist. But Sellars and the New York-based Wooster Group, one of the country's oldest avant-garde theater companies, share an artistic credo: Push the text by stylistic manipulation. And in the case of ''L.S.D. (. . . Just the High Points . . .),'' the group's latest work, the text is indeed pushed.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Here the ''text'' includes readings from the works of Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and Timothy Leary, a baby sitter's monologistic reminiscences, and excerpts, or ''deconstruc-tions,'' of Arthur Miller's ''The Crucible.'' The stylistic manipulations are a grab bag of techniques: acting that resembles staged readings, recorded and live music, vaudevillian sight gags, videotapes, and game-show buzzers, to name just a few.
Beyond stretching our standard definition of playable theater, the aim behind this dramatic risk-taking appears to be a linking of the 1960s search for consciousness-expanding insight - as portrayed by Dr. Timothy Leary's psychedelic explorations - and a collective search after evil exemplified in the 1950s McCarthy hearings and 1690s Salem witch trials. Paranoia undermines both moral odysseys. Effectiveness appears somewhat less frequently.
Two years in the making, ''L.S.D'' has unrealized potential. Certainly it aspires to lofty aims: ''an ongoing exploration of a new theater language which greatly expands the traditional frameworks of story line, character, and narrative,'' as the program states. Although much of the production is conceptually challenging, particularly when one surrenders to the non-narrative style, the intellectual framework remains not fully explored.
The company is most arresting in Part 2, where its distillation of ''The Crucible'' cranks out not only a provocative interpretation of this sometimes tired classic but also a fresh criterion for theatrical presentation. The final act of this tripartite production, however - a multisensory portrayal of a drug- and alcohol-besotted party as well as the creative process itself - is less clear and hence unresolved. Nancy Reilly as the baby sitter drones, ''It was more than a party, it was like a revolution. Everybody thought . . . that if you could give this to everyone, you could change the world.'' The irony here carries the force of a deflating balloon. Still, the energy and creativity of this company deserve watching. Through May 13.