Luna Noctiluca, making its World Premiere at The Other Space Theater, is a story of two Salomes told in two parts. The first is a drama, beginning with a dance. Salome in white (Lissa Alvarado), Jokanaan (Bradley Roa II) in black, the music is Bizet’s “Habanera” from Carmen. Shortly after their dance ends the two retire to their separate corners and the play begins. Herod, Herodias, and an especially charming young Syrian (Brandon Hitchcock) complete the ensemble. The second a solo performance, narrated by an unnamed Woman (Kelsie Noel Hill) in a red dress, who piece by piece tells her own story of sexual promiscuity, prostitution, and erotic dancing.
Director Brooke Silva, by way of her twelve-person ensemble, has created an inspired retelling of the Salome myth. Some parts are lovely, others feel a bit unpolished. At times, the two narratives seem in competition rather than in synergy. But Luna Noctiluca, partly based on Oscar Wilde’s Salome and partly based on Charles Mee’s adaptation of the same name, is enjoyable because whatever the pitfalls of a relatively newcomer cast and production team, the intensity level is high. The Woman weaves her way into moments of the story as if she were a ghost present to their actions, and not the other way around. In essence what she inherits is the tradition of dance, madness, and guilt that is the proposed result of Salome’s famous ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’—a dance which is performed in this production.
The staging is stark (a few chairs, a cardboard cut out serving as the Baptist’s cave) but this is the type of performance that can exist very well without elaborate scenic design. Since we are constantly being directed to alternating modes of narration (dramatic action and Woman’s storytelling), Luna Noctiluca works well enough with more left to our imagination.
The story is not a literal reading of either Wilde’s or Mee’s plays, but rather seems to be more about the birth of a theoretical sin that branches out and affects all in some way. Ms. Silva has given us the type of play that takes the myths and does something different, and that, whatever the pitfalls may be, is always worth at least taking a closer look.
This review first appeared on Arts Beat LA (http://www.artsbeatla.com/2013/06/hff-13-4/)