Orange Mango Cabaret
Reviewed by Gray Palmer
Sacred Fools Theatre
Through June 24
Orange Mango Cabaret, a scattershot program at the Hollywood Fringe, starts with a mistress-of-ceremonies, Friv O’Less (Sierra Taylor). At first, she is like a despotic cheerleader demanding a rah-rah response from the audience. She speaks briefly in rhyming doggerel, somewhat mystifying, however not so bad.
But when Taylor starts to sing, she is immediately engaging. Not much wonder: The song “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” is by Brecht and Weill. The verse is tasty — sly, angry ballad quatrains wrapped in harmonies that turn on sardonic modulations. Taylor has good pitch and her dark voice is a natural for the style.
Now, you may notice promising tokens of Brechtian anti-illusion — a curtain on a wire runs across the downstage area; the accompanying musician (the good guitarist Dylan Peruti), is visible to the audience. Will this cabaret have a Brechtian “red thread?” Will this be a socialist intervention?
No. Unfortunately, the high-water mark is at the top of the show. The program consists of short plays, sketches, verse and monologues, very earnest and upset about the status quo, but thin on critique, without a hint of class analysis, and nowhere to direct the force of resistance — except generally against the Orange Mango.
There is a bald parable suggested by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a quasi-didactic exchange about “fake news,” cartoonish hunters in camo shooting lonely wanderers and selling them for meat, a melodrama about power struggles within an evangelical church, a sketch of patriarchal domination followed by feminine revenge, and a cacophony of emancipatory quotations with simultaneously recited justifications of power.
One bit of feminist writing, I believe by Arianna Harris, stands out. And among the youthful, earnest company, Jax Ball and Daniel Ramirez are appealing as a cross-cultural pair of lovers.
Direction is by Bo Powell. The writers are Travis Snyder-Eaton, Eric Goodman, Teresa Beardsley, Nathan Wellman, Arianna Harris and Gabe Rivas Gomez.
Sacred Fools, Blackbox Theater, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4388; through June 24. Running time: one hour.