Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Carpe Noctem

Presented by Cabaret Versatile

At The Underground Theatre

review by Andrew Moore

Before I start delving into the minutiae, let me say very clearly at the outset: Carpe Noctem is worth seeing. With a run time of forty-five minutes, it will be a delightful palate-cleanser between shows at Fringe, an opportunity to kick back and have a good time. The dancers are exuberant and appealing, full of talent and heart. The numbers are enthusiastic and show great technical skill. Two stand-outs are Annie Gaia ("Clumsy Lili"), whose slapstick antics delight, and Beto Ruiz ("Antoine") an expressive mime-stagehand. Director and choreographer Lola OhLaLa has devised some clever steps for her dancers, and producer/company manager Marie Bobin has created a very warm, inviting space for the audience.
So why did Carpe Noctem fail for me?

It's the little things which, when added up, amount to disappointment in a show that could be -- should be -- so much better.

The music needs to be louder. About twice as loud as it currently is. The audience should not be able to hear the dancers' foot-falls over the music. For this type of show, it breaks the magic. I know how hard the dancers are working, but I don't want to hear how hard they are working.

Either cut the silhouette number or fully commit to it. Put a diffuser on the light and make sure that the fabric on the screen is comfortably opaque for the dancers. Once the dancers are comfortable, take your time. Tease. The point of a silhouette number is the tease. Don't turn away from the audience when you take off your bra -- that defeats the whole purpose of the silhouette, and you might as well be in plain view! There are two of you back there, so tease with each other. Something as simple (and innocent) as unfastening each other's bras has enormous erotic implications. A good silhouette number can be spellbinding, but you have to take the time to really cast a spell on the audience. Take your time.

Are we supposed to hoot and holler? I got the idea in the last number that this was expected. If so, if you want the audience to respond vocally to the acts, you will need to give the audience permission to do so. Either tell us outright, ("Don't be afraid to make a little noise!") or have your very able mime give us a primer, playing both "dancing girl" and "audience member" in turns. Whatever. Theatre goers are stuffy. Yeah, they'll laugh and applaud, but they won't whoop it up unless they know they can.

Why did the dancers get progressively more dressed with each number?  The ebb and flow of the show is off a tick. There are times when we are given a logical progression of numbers and the connective tissue of mimework and backstage shenanigans propels us into the next section.  Specifically, the Clumsy Lili vignette/Le Retour du Grand Blond sequence is nothing short of brilliant. Some fine-tuning, tweaking, and reshuffling is needed overall to bring the rest of the show up to this standard.  There are some great ideas, but I would suggest a build to the tease (sheer gowns, silhouette dance) instead of front-loading the evening with implied nudity.

Finally, and this is the big one, the through-line does not work as well as the individual numbers.  In other words, the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts, and at times the whole actually distracts from how good the individual parts really are.  Clarifying and buttressing the through-line would elevate the entire show.  Reprogramming the dance numbers around a stronger narrative core that builds to the can-can climax will make the show sing.

What it comes down to: Lola OhLaLa and Marie Bobin need to work with a director; someone to help shape what they have, observe the deficits in the presentation and devise solutions that optimize the audience experience. All the pieces are there; team Cabaret Versatile just needs a little help putting them together.  The work these ladies are doing is good, and I hope they continue working on it.

Carpe Noctem has three more Fringe dates:  Friday the 15th and Wednesday the 20th of June at 8.30pm at the Underground Theatre, 1314 North Wilton Place in Hollywood.  There will be a special performance at the Festival Awards Night on Sunday, June 24th.  Tickets may be purchased online through the Hollywood Fringe Festival website.

Street parking is available, but it's Fringe season.  Get there early and expect to do laps.


Marie Bobinette said...

The show dates are actually June 15th & 20th at 8.30pm.

Underground Theatre
1314 North Wilton Place
Hollywood, CA 90028

Andrew Moore said...

Thank you, Marie. I have updated the information.