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Arts and Entertainment

'The Fool and the Red Queen' Takes Us On A Brilliant, Surrealist Jaunt

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Murray Mednick's surrealist play within a play, The Fool and the Red Queen, is running at Lounge Theatre on Hollywood's Theatre Row. The work depicts the conception, creation and fruition of a darkly whimsical production driven by a maniacal queen and her senstive, co-dependent jester. The Fool and the Red Queen is beautifully crafted with impeccable performances, striking staging and insightful dialogue that blurs the boundaries between narrative, meta narrative and fluid streams of consciousness.

Mednick is one of our celebrated Los Angeles playwrights and he impresses yet again with his current Padua Playwrights production. Like his previous works, The Fool and the Red Queen captures the unique poetry of our city while infusing it with self-reflective breadth. Through a lens of fractal perspectives with a postdramatic slant, the characters reach out to the audience as individuals, not as a single viewing entity. The Fool and the Red Queen is unlike most comedies where there the audience alternates from being silent and chuckling in unison at formulaic moments. Instead, Mednick's wit speaks to viewers at different moments and for different reasons causing gentle, consistent waves of laughter to lap at the stage from constantly moving sources in the small sea of theatrically absorbed theatre patrons.

The Fool and the Red Queen is exceptionally well-cast with actors that all give inspired and highly-nuanced performances. Bill Celentano is openly inviting and engaging as the Fool, an embittered underdog role that he infuses with empathy and skillfully-tempered sarcasm. Julia Prud'homme is a consummate Red Queen, a maniacal, predictably unpredictable brute archetype that she boisterously commands. John Diehl reprises Gary, a linking character that often resurfaces in Mednick's work with relatable, loving aplomb laced with tactful bursts of dramatic fire. Working in tandem as a pair of subversively frenzied producers, Jack Kehler (as Chauncey) and Gray Palmer (as Rondell) use fluid humor and citified poesy to drive the play. Finally, as the chorus, Peggy Blow delivers the best moment of the Fool of the Red Queen. Blow slithers around the plot, bolstering up the action for most of her role, but when she is finally unleashed at the peak of the play, she grants her audience a theatrical moment that is so good that she creates a sepulchral suspension of time that shocks the audience.

Under the direction of Mednick and Guy Zimmerman, The Fool and the Red Queen is an easy to revel in trip of weird familiarity that honors the human capacity for varied perspective through exceptionally orchestrated poetry, prose and non-verbal messages. Their direction pulls the abstract down to earth, crafting an accessible shared dream-like experience. Staging elements by Jeffrey Atherton (set design), Matt Richter (lighting), Ann Closs-Farley (costuming) and Brad Cooper (cinematography) are simple, but aesthetically powerful.

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The Fool and the Red Queen is playing at Lounge Theatre through June 24. It is running as both as a standard production and as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Tickets are available online, through the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and, and via phone at 323-960-7740. General admission is $25.