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The Black Rider ~ Ahmanson Theatre ~ Downtown

12:06 AM PDT on June 7, 2006

The Black Rider

If you'd never heard of The Black Rider, the musical/theatrical collaboration between avant garde director Robert Wilson, bad-ass troubador songsmith Tom Waits, and junkie literary mastermind William S. Burroughs, you might think it was a collaboration between other artists.

Resembling a dramatic gangbang of Tim Burton's Goth aesthetic, the movements of Japanese Noh and modern dance, an extra grim storyline from the Brothers Grimm, and the costumes and makeup of Marilyn Manson's stylist, The Black Rider is a visual and kinesic marvel.

Cast Black Rider

The show is dark dark fun, lyrical and gorgeous, populated by a cast of gaunt mutants remisniscent of the ghouls from 13 Ghosts and the degenerates from Cabaret. Retelling the German legend of a nebbish who makes a pact with the devil for magic bullets to impress his sweetie and the ultimate price he pays for it, the stage sweeps with optical magic and macabre atmosphere...(Continued below...)
Signage Black Rider

Bow Black Rider
Devil in Disguise?
Theatre Detail

In an adult carnival of occult nightmare and supernatural beauty, scrims and banners unfurl from the firmament, objects and characters strangely levitate, deer cross like toy ducks at a shooting gallery, carcasses litter the stage, creatures pop from the flloor and swing overhead, while expert lighting evokes inherent evil, Hell and the haunted forest. A luminscent crossroads marks the spot while an ominous black box produces twsited characters one after the other, reminding us from where we came from and where we will go.

Burroughs' ryhming script, where wordplay and parables rule, is alternately wise and comical. Waits' songbook is filled with atmospheric, haunted strains played on such instruments as saw, glass harmonica and xylophone, evoking the natural winds of the dark woods, the oompah and romance of the German dancehall and the grit of the U.S. blues. Impressive are the performances, the tortured movements, which at times are vaudevillian, other times animalistic or stone still.

Great applause goes to Nigel Richards' dance that descends into insanity as Georg Schmid, the wickedness of Vance Avery's Pegleg and the soul searing final solo of Matt McGrath's Wilhelm. The intensity, fun and creepiness brought to all characters from outside in and back again, is phenomenal.

With abstract action and an often puzzling pace, many audience members left at intermission, disappointed it wasn't more straightforward perhaps. For Taco, who got $20 seats through Ahmanson’s Hot Tickets program, which sets aside 10% of each night’s tickets for us cheapies, we were nothing but blown away, even from the last row of the balcony. The Black Rider runs until June 11th.

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