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Zone

Throng Team Leaders: Franc Baliton, Paula Batson, Sarah Carillo, Doug Davidson, Erika Inatsugu, Laura Josephson, Kristy Kang, Ulises Lopez, Michael Morrissey, Fantasia Owens, Robbie Parker, Nancy Taylor, Sonja Toledo, Ilena Vasquez, Annie Word.

With:
The Tsar ... Harvey Perr The Tsarina ... Rachel Rosenthal The Tsarevnas ... Joan Spitler, Carol Katz The Tsarevich ... Angie Bray Rasputin ... Kirk Wilson

Throng Team Leaders: Franc Baliton, Paula Batson, Sarah Carillo, Doug Davidson, Erika Inatsugu, Laura Josephson, Kristy Kang, Ulises Lopez, Michael Morrissey, Fantasia Owens, Robbie Parker, Nancy Taylor, Sonja Toledo, Ilena Vasquez, Annie Word.

It’s not a good sign when the creator of a performance piece requires two full pages of program notes to explain what she is trying to do. Art, after all, has to communicate, and in her latest work, “Zone,” what Rachel Rosenthal has to say is mostly either annoyingly trite or maddeningly obscure.

The program notes promise so much more: An analysis of the mistakes of the 20 th century, a revealing comparison between the world of Czarist Russia and our own society and, most intriguingly, a look at modern science’s chaos theory and how it applies to society and politics.

But what Rosenthal does is create stage imagery, and one can’t explore complex ideas in such a medium. Instead of thoughtful comment, she settles for sloganeering. Her imagery is often striking, seldom enlightening.

The two-hour piece features Rosenthal and four actors as members of the Russian royal family, which was deposed by the Communist revolution. Joining them on stage is a group of 50 or so performers, who represent the voiceless, angry masses of Russia.

Through poetry, monologues and, above all, imagery, Rosenthal attempts to convey the political message she spells out in the program. This seems to be that our privileged position as white Westerners is as precarious as the czar’s position was earlier this century.

If one doesn’t try to apply this metaphor too exactly, Rosenthal has a point — certainly environmental degradation and the increasing gap between rich and poor cannot go on indefinitely. But one doubts if this is news to any of the 2, 800 people at the shows.

The concept of chaos being one of nature’s fundamental properties is new and interesting. But Rosenthal fails to explain it fully, let alone spell out its implications. She’s too busy conceiving of embarrassingly trite imagery, such as having each member of her “throngs” hold up a branch and pretend he or she is a tree.

Some of her other stage pictures are more compelling. Rosenthal herself has enormous stage presence and a terrifically expressive speaking voice.

Nevertheless, while watching this well-intentioned but pretentious piece, it’s difficult not to, well, zone out.

Zone

(Wadsworth Theater, UCLA; 1,400 seats; $ 23 top)

Production: UCLA Center for the Performing Arts presents a performance piece conceived, written and directed by Rachel Rosenthal, with creative input from all company members.

Creative: Choreography, Mehmet Sander; music, Amy Knoles; lighting, Kevin Adams; costumes, Roslyn Moore; masks, Laura Denny. Opened and reviewed Feb. 11, 1994. Closed Feb. 12.

Cast: The Tsar ... Harvey Perr The Tsarina ... Rachel Rosenthal The Tsarevnas ... Joan Spitler, Carol Katz The Tsarevich ... Angie Bray Rasputin ... Kirk Wilson

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