WHO’S AFRAID OF DAVID LYNCH?

Musicals & Operas · orgasmico theatre company · Ages 21+ · flashing lights · includes nudity · world premiere · United States of America

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Review by BLAKE ABRAMOVITZ

June 27, 2022 certified reviewer

What I liked

All hail the shattered beauties who languish in mystical chasms between L.A. nightclubs and beer-soaked double-wides, who haunt the wormholes adjoining magic theaters to abandoned desert motels, who stagger into nameless evil in befogged forests.

All hail the addicts and orphans whose eyes are electric with pain and sex, whose loveliness is equaled only by their longing, whose whispered, bellowed poetry confounds and saves.

This is the bardo realm, the lucid nightmare, the human soul stripped of context, clad in sequins and snakeskin and denim. Style without object, Truths unburdened by story, Art freed of form— and furthermore, hilarious! More on that presently.

Michael Shaw Fisher the actor crackles with violence even in his stillness. Doing nothing, he sinks into a carbonated darkness that articulates as much about malevolence as the musings of Macbeth. Then he moves, and moves with a concentration all but lost to the modern performer. This is acting as sinister dance, in which every gesture gestures at some truth we are all of us frantic not to know.

Michael Shaw Fisher the writer and impresario has somehow managed to pen a seamless, four-dimensional love song to his silver-haired muse, the titular madman and auteur, but without a trace of sentiment. The entire odyssey is submerged in an exquisite sonic ocean (every note imported from the soundtracks of Lynch’s films) that hypnotizes and bewilders. Once the trance takes hold one is imprisoned in it till curtain call, and for some hours (eons?) after.

“Who’s Afraid of David Lynch” is deceptive. Is it a send-up? A winking celebration? Yes, it’s preposterous. Yes, it’s willfully, ecstatically unintelligible. Never for an instant does it slide into self-seriousness. But finally, it is deadly serious business, an intricate, earnest homage to a genius who defined the bizarre for three generations of American movie-goers.

The most astonishing thing about this spell is that at times, almost in spite of itself, it staggers without warning from the absurd into zones of authentic, unironic beauty. The skeletal silhouette in the strobe, the desperate melody, the fog, the unacted grief in the faces of broken souls— these cohere at times into something that transcends the ostensible genre, musical comedy, and somehow, incredibly (it’s a bare bones theater production performed in a speakeasy, after all), rivals compositions of Lynch himself.

Heartbreaking femme fatale Leigh Wulff deserves no small measure of the credit for this. In sheer courage and vulnerability, her performance crosses a subtle boundary beyond which writers like me falter. Here, past that line, I can only shrug off my embarrassment and resort to words like “triumph” and “human” and “spirit.”

What I didn't like

I want desperately to see this show performed with more elaborate set pieces and a truly world-class sound system— in other words, with a bigger budget. It’s astounding what it achieved without, and it deserves to be leveled up with Broadway level tech. I’m holding my breath.

My overall impression

Go see this show! (If you’re into… Pain. Madness. Music. Laughter.)

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