Gangsta Love

Gangsta Love (Paolina Boxing Club; 180 seats; $ 22.50 top) French Toast Prods. presents a play in one act by Dahlia Wilde. Directed by Vincent Paterson; sound, Jon Gottlieb; lighting, Douglas Cumming; costumes, Cindy Sandmann, Jody Nikel; projections, Ariel Borremans, Pierre Desjardins; composer, Greg De Belles. Opened, reviewed Sept. 25, 1996; runs through Nov. 14. Running time: 1 hour. Cast: Dahlia Wilde (Muhammad Dali), Henry Brown (Ring Announcer, Gangsta Love), Annie Abbott (Dolores Saperstein), Allen Bloomfield (Stanley Saperstein. Dahlia Wilde gives a poised and polished performance in her piece about rape and its aftermath. Performed in the Paolina Boxing Club, where Wilde's character, Muhammad Dali, stages her metaphorical comeback from rape, the production offers not only an unusual theatrical setting, but also features considerable technical and design prowess in using the space. Performing in the boxing ring, Wilde describes, in alternating rhymed verse and prose, being raped in New York's Central Park by two assailants while her boyfriend looked on helplessly. From there, she relates the nightmare of the hospital examination and police investigation, followed by years of depression and struggle to regain her identity and self-confidence. After a long search, which included foreign study and travel, Wilde's character finally arrives in Hollywood determined to become an actress. Disappointments inevitably follow, spurred by the residual effects of the rape. Finally, she literally stumbles into the boxing club where she meets Gangsta Love (Henry Brown), who helps her, through boxing, to find the path back to herself. The tone of Wilde's piece, while emotionally wrenching, certainly has its lighter moments. Off to the side of the ring sit the character's parents, Dolores (Annie Abbott) and Stanley (Allen Bloomfield), who offer a running, often humorous commentary on their daughter's trials and tribulations, playing the role of a kibitzing Greek chorus. Despite the pain of her journey, Wilde brings an ironic eye to the story as she describes roaming the world trying to escape men who wanted to "show me their shlongs." Finding no escape, Wilde concludes to her dismay that this is "an international problem." In fact, it is the ironic distance that Wilde creates that also flattens the emotional impact of the piece. Wilde the writer seems to view the proceedings with a kind of tragic bemusement, a mix of Franz Kafka and Woody Allen. As a result, Wilde the actress never seems able to fully commit to the emotions of the moment. Nevertheless, it is a fine outing for Wilde, as a writer and performer. Wilde is greatly aided in this effort by Brown, Abbott and Bloomfield , who are an inspired cast of supporting players, as well as by director Vincent Paterson, who has directed and choreographed tours for Madonna and Michael Jackson. Paterson makes full use of the boxing ring and all its accessories, as well as rear video projections and skillful sound cues, to create an interesting dramatic environment. The technical work on the show is outstanding, with sound designer Jon Gottlieb and lighting designer Douglas Cumming deserving special credit. Hoyt Hilsman

Gangsta Love (Paolina Boxing Club; 180 seats; $ 22.50 top) French Toast Prods. presents a play in one act by Dahlia Wilde. Directed by Vincent Paterson; sound, Jon Gottlieb; lighting, Douglas Cumming; costumes, Cindy Sandmann, Jody Nikel; projections, Ariel Borremans, Pierre Desjardins; composer, Greg De Belles. Opened, reviewed Sept. 25, 1996; runs through Nov. 14. Running time: 1 hour. Cast: Dahlia Wilde (Muhammad Dali), Henry Brown (Ring Announcer, Gangsta Love), Annie Abbott (Dolores Saperstein), Allen Bloomfield (Stanley Saperstein. Dahlia Wilde gives a poised and polished performance in her piece about rape and its aftermath. Performed in the Paolina Boxing Club, where Wilde’s character, Muhammad Dali, stages her metaphorical comeback from rape, the production offers not only an unusual theatrical setting, but also features considerable technical and design prowess in using the space. Performing in the boxing ring, Wilde describes, in alternating rhymed verse and prose, being raped in New York’s Central Park by two assailants while her boyfriend looked on helplessly. From there, she relates the nightmare of the hospital examination and police investigation, followed by years of depression and struggle to regain her identity and self-confidence. After a long search, which included foreign study and travel, Wilde’s character finally arrives in Hollywood determined to become an actress. Disappointments inevitably follow, spurred by the residual effects of the rape. Finally, she literally stumbles into the boxing club where she meets Gangsta Love (Henry Brown), who helps her, through boxing, to find the path back to herself. The tone of Wilde’s piece, while emotionally wrenching, certainly has its lighter moments. Off to the side of the ring sit the character’s parents, Dolores (Annie Abbott) and Stanley (Allen Bloomfield), who offer a running, often humorous commentary on their daughter’s trials and tribulations, playing the role of a kibitzing Greek chorus. Despite the pain of her journey, Wilde brings an ironic eye to the story as she describes roaming the world trying to escape men who wanted to “show me their shlongs.” Finding no escape, Wilde concludes to her dismay that this is “an international problem.” In fact, it is the ironic distance that Wilde creates that also flattens the emotional impact of the piece. Wilde the writer seems to view the proceedings with a kind of tragic bemusement, a mix of Franz Kafka and Woody Allen. As a result, Wilde the actress never seems able to fully commit to the emotions of the moment. Nevertheless, it is a fine outing for Wilde, as a writer and performer. Wilde is greatly aided in this effort by Brown, Abbott and Bloomfield , who are an inspired cast of supporting players, as well as by director Vincent Paterson, who has directed and choreographed tours for Madonna and Michael Jackson. Paterson makes full use of the boxing ring and all its accessories, as well as rear video projections and skillful sound cues, to create an interesting dramatic environment. The technical work on the show is outstanding, with sound designer Jon Gottlieb and lighting designer Douglas Cumming deserving special credit. Hoyt Hilsman

Gangsta Love

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