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Echo Park

Adramelech’s Monologue ~ Bootleg Theater ~ Through Nov. 12 ~ Echo Park

Adramelech's Monologue @ The Bootleg Theater ~ 2220 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90057

Tuesdays and Wednesday Through November 12th @ 8:30 P.M.

"The actor does not walk into the theatre, the actor moves forward with the theare between its teeth."- Valere Novarina

If you need stories that begin with "Once Upon a Time..." and end with some semblance of understanding what just happened, Adramelech's Monologue is not for you. In fact, if the name is already a turn-off, stay out of Adramelech 's kitchen. If however, you deal in words, treasure in-your-grill acting, and are drawn to the work of Gertrude Stein and Sam Beckett, this 50-minute performance piece by Valere Novarina is for you.

The work is a sprawling, insane, babbling monologue by a bug-eyed lunatic with a shaved head and unshaven face. He is clearly a writer (it takes one to know one). He looks like an inmate and in one way or another, is a prisoner to his own sharp mind. Dominated by a massive white wall of blank paper, his floorboards stuffed with crumpled paper sheets, and his floor strewn with more of the same, Adramelech has apparently spent untold insomniac days and nights, maybe even weeks, with one fuck of a case of writer's block. The emptiness of the barren paper looms so large over this man, he has become a shell, a revolving-door depository for learned, repeated, and written words.

In the middle of the stage, flowing from a primitive typewriter, the monologue stretches a few rows into the audience. Born from a writer's darkest frustrations with himself, it is a one-man vomitorium of high falutin' vocabulary, lost dialogue, the narration of some sort of fantasy pirate epic, spitting schizo rants, litanies of alliteration, childish pleas, mumbles, stumbles, gobbledygook, overheard vintage conversations, and introspective cartharsis. It is its own language. In total, it makes Jack Nicholson's novel in The Shining read like "My Pet Goat."

What words are worthy to be written or said at all? Which words are chosen to make the page? Which words have value? Combined, it certainly makes no sense at all, but Adramelech's monologue seems to toss any and all worthy speech into a blender, and through-line be damned, he delivers it back methodically like a man possessed by many devils. The jumbled spew that results attempts to fight, expel, exorcise, and punish words back for their grip on the writer's stability. Is there a possibility for winning the battle? Will endless words strangle Adramelech like a snake or choke him like a noose? For all his words, Adramelech has lost the asbility to use them at all.

Have you ever spoken with someone who is completely out of their mind? They really believe all that shit they have to say about Blackwater tracking them for their secret communication with U.F.O.s. If it wasn't paranoid blather, it would be quite credible from tone alone. Actor and Cal Arts grad Hilario Saaverdra, who studied (I'm going to assume torturedly) under the playwright/original performer, is suitably quite realisitc when portraying a person tortured into insanity by the words ricocheting through his own mind. He twists and turns, hisses and expectorates, smiles and laughs, turning sweet one second, and venomous the next. He deftly delivers a complicated, nonsensical, physically exhausting soliloquy with danger, sensitivity, and even fun, playing nearly every shade of extreme emotion in under an hour, dashing between personalities with labyrinthine wordplay. A truly remarkable performance by an extremely talented actor. Enough cannot be said about Saavedra's power to engage an audience without the ability to communicate clearly.

Where's the punk rock and danger in our theater? Hats off to director Josh Moyse for reminding us. I hate passive, dry theater, one reason why I connected with ARTEL's way of challenging and pleasing the audience through movement, surrealist visuals, aggression, and noise. I felt similarly on my toes with this raving psycho Adramelech just inches from my face. Mr. Saavedra, who has played the role many times since 2004, challenges the audience with his eyes and his words, at first taunting us with questions and demands we feel he actually might want us to shout out and account for. We worry for ourselves a few times and by the end of the monologue, worry for the character's state of being and outcome more than a couple times as well.

The production team of Danny Fresh and Jessica Hanna deserve applause as well (as does excellent light and scenic design by Dan Weingarten and Adam Fleming respectively). It takes a lot of dedication and belief to take an abstract show like this and make it impress so powerfully. In addition to the massive sheet of paper and interrogation-lit typewriter, the stage comes with two large oversize chairs and little else but two swirling digital screens of mildly psychedelic lines and colors. When the actor climbs one of the high chairs in his deteriorating state, it seemed to subtly foreshadow or connotate suicide, as if he was going to hang himself, in a haunting touch that, for me, brought thoughts of David Foster Wallace, a writer of undefinable skill, obsessed with words, who hanged himself last month.

Adramelech's Monologue is also about the pressures of performance. It had crossed my mind that maybe Adramelech was more than a writer with a brain stuffed full of too many ideas, too many words, and too much deadline stress and creative angst. Maybe he is a character or narrator in someone else's story, regurgitating the words crafted for him, his destiny to speak limited to a vocabulary set in type. Like a Joyce-ian, anti-Hollywood Stranger Than Fiction. Maybe his madness is a character or many characters, created by the perviously sane writer himself. Whoa.

This brave production deserves credit for stepping up proudly to believe in the power of theater, performance, and words in an age of disaffected irony. Writer's block, existential insanity, and vocabulary run together and into the stratosphere in this dynamic, surreal, and mad production.

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