×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lion in the Streets

If the theater industry were to emulate film and start doling out its annual worst-of awards, then "Lion in the Streets" could sweep all categories. Everything about this show is so aggressively inept that the failure becomes a kind of achievement. In the absence of awards, the best we can do is catalog the disasters and hope they'll be remembered as warnings.

With:
Scalato, Bill, Midnight Man, Rodney, Ben - Nathan Blew Rachel, Lily, Rhonda, Scarlett - Amanda Boekelheide Timmy, Ron, David, Michael - James Ryan Caldwell Martin, George/Maria, Isobel's Father, Father Hayes, Edward - Jeffrey Clarke Isobel - Tania Molina Sue, Jill, Joanne, Sherry - Rachel Scwartz Nellie, Laura, Christine, Joan - Tracy Weller

If the theater industry were to emulate film and start doling out its annual worst-of awards, then “Lion in the Streets” could sweep all categories. Everything about this show, from script to acting to sound design, is so aggressively inept that the failure becomes a kind of achievement. In the absence of awards, the best we can do is catalog the disasters and hope they’ll be remembered as warnings.

Judith Thompson’s script manages to be both pretentious and shallow. It attempts to follow Isobel (Tania Molina), a murdered young girl whose ghost looks on at the suffering in her community. Really, though, Isobel is too busy spouting faux-poetic drivel about violence — “You are a slave of the lion! I smell the lion’s spray!” — to observe much of anything.

Nor does Thompson develop the child’s character. All we know is she’s Portuguese, she was murdered, and she’s the kind of ghost who constantly asks her audience, “Who gonna take me home? You gotta bus ticket?”

This obnoxious role would defeat the best of actors. But Molina makes it worse by playing Isobel as a wide-eyed angel child, employing the breathy voice and awkward movements that so many lazy performers think represent childhood. And as a final blow to the nerves, director Kareem Fahmy lets her fidget for two solid hours. She only stops twitching when Fahmy has her twirl like a freak ballerina during someone else’s monologue.

Of course, chaos is the director’s style. Literally every scene devolves into high-pitched screaming, as though volume were the only option for intensity. Most of the actors play multiple roles — among others, Isobel watches rape victims, widows, and a lisping homosexual — but all their perfs blend into the same screeching cacophony.

Out of the din, however, arises one scene that surpasses all else. In it, a female reporter (Tracy Weller) interviews a woman with cerebral palsy (Amanda Boekelheide). We never know the interview’s purpose, but the ailing lady will only discuss her sex drive. As she recalls one lover — who might be her rapist, it’s never clear — a half-naked man (Nathan Blew) enters to yank her from her wheelchair. The palsied woman unfolds her twisted limbs, and the couple dances a dream ballet.

The reporter’s response? She throws her subject to the ground and kicks her in the ribs. Then she screams, “You shouldn’t have made me kick you!” From the ground, the victim moans, “Ohhh! Come down and kiss me! Put your tongue in my mouth!” And then they make out.

Um, what? No matter how much it tries to shock, this type of theater does not expose dark truths about society. There’s meant to be a lesson here about the beast inside us all, but “Lion in the Streets” teaches us nothing.

Lion in the Streets

Abingdon Theater Complex/June Havoc Theater; 98 seats; $15 top

Production: An Alternate Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Judith Thompson. Directed by Kareem Fahmy.

Creative: Sets, Brian Ireland; costumes, Anne K. Wood; lighting, Andrew Lu; original music and sound, Andrew Papadeas; dramaturg, Courtney Todd; production stage manager, Andrea Wales. Opened Sept. 8, 2005. Reviewed Sept. 10. Running time: 2 HOURS 30 MIN.

Cast: Scalato, Bill, Midnight Man, Rodney, Ben - Nathan Blew Rachel, Lily, Rhonda, Scarlett - Amanda Boekelheide Timmy, Ron, David, Michael - James Ryan Caldwell Martin, George/Maria, Isobel's Father, Father Hayes, Edward - Jeffrey Clarke Isobel - Tania Molina Sue, Jill, Joanne, Sherry - Rachel Scwartz Nellie, Laura, Christine, Joan - Tracy Weller

More Legit

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “When I read a script, it processes in my head like a [...]

  • Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella'

    How much can you change “Cinderella” before it is no longer “Cinderella”? In the case of choreography maestro Matthew Bourne — who, it should be said, first unveiled his spin on the classic folk tale some 22 years ago — the music is most certainly “Cinderella” (Prokofiev’s 1945 score, to be exact), but the plot [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content