Baby Jane

Blanche Ulrika Malmgren Fanatical devotees of the camp classic film will no doubt find it amusing to watch this offbeat adaptation of the story, though they may be put off by the fact that virtually all the dialogue (except for some song lyrics) is in Swedish.

With:
Jane ... Katta Palsson Edwin Flag ... Per Sandberg With the upcoming Los Angeles Festival devoted to the arts of Africa and the Middle East, you're probably asking yourself, "But where can I see the latest avant-garde theater from Sweden?" Worry not: The Darling Desperados are making their American debut with an expressionist adaptation of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" at the semirevitalized Los Angeles Theater Center.

Blanche Ulrika Malmgren Fanatical devotees of the camp classic film will no doubt find it amusing to watch this offbeat adaptation of the story, though they may be put off by the fact that virtually all the dialogue (except for some song lyrics) is in Swedish.

The ultrahip will probably be thrilled by Jokaim Thastrom’s gratingly loud score, which attempts to turn the sounds of industrial machinery into music.

For the rest of the audience, the effect of this insistently aggressive piece is much like having an angry man get in your face and shout in Swedish for an hour.

The story, which one can follow in broad outline in spite of the lack of simultaneous translation, is a grotesque variation on “Sunset Boulevard.”

It concerns two sisters, both of whom were movie stars many years earlier. Blanche is physically crippled; Jane is emotionally unstable. They spend their time torturing one another until former child star “Baby” Jane enlists a stranger to help her revive her moribund career.

The actors, who directed themselves, adopt exaggerated poses as they walk (or , in Blanche’s case, crawl) around the huge set, which (no doubt deliberately) suggests a prison more than a Beverly Hills mansion. Mood shifts (accompanied by changes in lighting) are frequent and sudden.

The production captures the macabre feel of the story, and these actors are clearly talented and committed. But there is far more style than content here, and the style will hardly be to everyone’s taste.

Baby Jane

(Los Angeles Theatre Center, L.A.; 236 seats; $ 12 top)

Production: The Santa Monica Playhouse, in association with Statens Kulturand and Kulturstodsnamden Malmo, presents the Darling Desperados in a play adapted from the novel "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" by Henry Farrell; translation, Malim Lagerlof; producer, Elynmarie Kazle; costumes, Kassa Totsing.

Creative: Lighting, Golin Forsberg; set design, Ake Dahlbom; sound, Lars Liljegren; music, Jokaim Thastrom. Opened, reviewed Aug. 13, 1993; runs through Aug. 21.

Cast: Jane ... Katta Palsson Edwin Flag ... Per Sandberg With the upcoming Los Angeles Festival devoted to the arts of Africa and the Middle East, you're probably asking yourself, "But where can I see the latest avant-garde theater from Sweden?" Worry not: The Darling Desperados are making their American debut with an expressionist adaptation of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" at the semirevitalized Los Angeles Theater Center.

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