Photo by Jay FraleyIan (Bryan Jennings), a British journalist who writes about serial killers, child molesters and other social icons, has checked into a ritzy hotel room in order to try to shag an old flame, Cate (Hillary Calvert). It's a dry, dreary, sullen exploration of power and sexual politics that basically leaves you with the feeling that these two incredibly fucked-up people should never, ever be allowed on the same planet again. But things take a paradigm shift when a renegade soldier (Ryan Harris) barges into the room, jumps on a bed and starts pissing. And that's just the beginning of the real fun. A woman bites a piece off of a man's dick and spits it into his face; the same man gets pistol-fucked by an armed intruder.
Blasted is billed as an anti-war play, but the real war is being waged in the corrupt moral circuitry of its three characters.
Some claim that late playwright Sarah Kane's free-wheeling explorations of theatrical form make her the most important contemporary playwright since Sam Shepard. Others say she's the theatrical equivalent of a radio shock-jock, a playwright who revels in the vilest, basest subjects imaginable in order to get a collective rise from her collective audience. Based on the Rude Guerrilla Theater Co.'s current production of Kane's Blasted—the Santa Ana-based company's first incursion into Los Angeles—it's entirely possible both critiques are equally valid. The long, tepid stretches in the first act, when nothing much happens and even less is said, truly make you wonder whether Kane's beloved by the hip only for taking her own life at 28. And the incessant barrage of violent, sexually depraved actions don't exactly shine the most golden of illuminations upon the human condition.
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But Blasted survives the rather uneven qualities of this Dave Barton-directed Rude Guerrilla staging. If you can manage to sit through the first act, which has as much energy as a corpse and is nearly as boring, the explosively stomach-turning second act will pay off.
Because of its rancorous subject matter, most discussions about Blasted will begin and end with everyone weighing in on the obscenity issue. But there is a lot more here. Ultimately, Blastedis a play about cruelty; the obscenities that Kane parades in front of her audience are metaphors for the atrocities that occur on a global level: environmental ravaging, ethnic cleansing, the invasion of sovereign nations in the name of commerce. Kane seems to be saying—in one of the most disturbing, harrowing ways ever committed to paper—that every lie, every deceit, every fucked thing we do as individuals lays the foundation for a world that, objectively speaking, needs to be wiped from the galaxy and built all over again.
William Blake wrote that cruelty has a human heart. Rarely has that heart seemed so overwhelmingly revolting—and so sickeningly, sadly familiar—as it does in Blasted.
Blasted at the Grove Theater Center Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, (818) 238-9998. gtc.org. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. (no show July 4). Through July 25. $15-$20.