Kick Boom Theater Company launches its inaugural production Scarlett Fever at Hollywood Fringe Festival, created and directed by John Wuchte – and if you are in Los Angeles during its run, this is about as good and magical as it can get, friends. Wuchte takes us on a uniquely cohesive physical and musical journey into the mythic quest for the actress to play Scarlett O’Hara and ends up taking us into a surprisingly internal ‘all things Hollywood’ experience that resonates quite soundly today. With music created by Wuchte & award-winning composer Michael Teoli that is provided live thanks to Wuchte, Kent Jenkins and Gordon Wimpress, 8 actors deliver a performance you won’t want to miss.
The cast includes Max Udell as David O. Selznick, Austin Gold as Myron Selznick (David’s brother), Olivia Cordell as Hollywood talent scout and agent Kay Brown (who was integral in obtaining the rights for “Gone With the Wind” and in launching the talent search we witness here), Deja Bowen as Louella Parsons, Joshua Rivas as Hedda Hopper (complete with fabulous, outrageous hat), and three Scarlett hopefuls played by Cassi Schiano (Scarlett 1), Talia Goodman (Scarlett 2) and Sara Carpenter (Scarlett 3). Though Wuchte started the show by noting he just met his 8 actors a mere 8 weeks prior, it feels as though they’ve been working together for years. It’s a quiet yet ferocious piece that brings the physical together with the vocal [both spoken and sung] in a way that never feels forced or manufactured. With 8 black chairs, suitcases that take on characters of their own when the lights that are hidden inside of them are used to tell the story, the actors and the music more than filling the space – they take us on an unexpected emotional journey.
Maybe it’s just me, but the hoops [pun not really intended] the three Scarlett want-to-be figures jump through reading like headlines torn from Variety this week. Once the Selznick brothers are won over to the idea of producing the film, it is Kay Brown’s role in one drum-fueled chant to remind them that they are not looking for a girl – they are looking for a woman. Later on when the Scarlets have each have their turn at trying to win Selznick over [it is very tempting to try to pin down the famous actresses portrayed by Sara Carpenter and Talia Goodman along with the one unknown hopeful portrayed by Cassio Schiano who gives us the most nearly painfully innocent take on the process] they join together to ask Selznick what he wants from them/sees in them/needs from them right now while Selznick casts his own larger than life shadow on a brick wall to the right and we don’t need to stretch our minds that far to imagine that this opportunity drove actresses nearly mad with the desire to win a role that gave them more than one thing to play. In the film, Scarlett is, after all, both infuriatingly selfish and ultimately sympathetic – given her circumstances and the change her character undergoes.
But nevermind the film and the weight it has carried with it since its premiere all those decades ago. Let yourself forget what happened and imagine the possibilities and the panicked rush to land the most coveted role of its time. The gesture work, energy and sheer presence of this piece are more than worth your time.
John Wuchte began his career in New York City where he was the Artistic Director of RAKKA–THAMM!!! Theater Company through the ‘90s. Each summer he would adapt Greek tragedies filled with chant and song accompanied by live drumming and would perform outside in Washington Square Park. This is when his Tribal Acting method took shape. He wrote and directed Vivian Vance is Alive and Well and Running a Chinese Take-Out. His production of Claire Z. (an adaptation of The Visit) was performed at Sacred Fools Theater Company and received an L.A. Weekly nomination for best adaptation.
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