Friday, June 06, 2008

Lipstick Traces - A Secret History Of The 20th Century (The SOB Review)

Lipstick Traces - A Secret History Of The 20th Century (The SOB Review) - Av-Aerie, Chicago, IL

*** (out of ****)

How radically cool is this?

In setting the stage for the Pavement Group's decidedly underground Lipstick Traces - A Secret History Of The 20th Century, invited guests entered Chicago's Av-Aerie through a loading dock door and were required to check in to make sure their names were included on the list. There were no tickets, per se, just donations to be offered in a basket.

Talk about setting the stage for something as freewheeling and fascinating as the mini-history on the origins of the punk movement, which, as told here, was not so much about creating art as actually living in a situation.

If you've never heard of the Windy City's fledgling Pavement Group, count this as your lesson. Founded by three Steppenwolf Theatre Apprentice Program members -- David Perez, Brittany Barnes, and Julia Dossett -- along with Tim Schoen, the company's first play Perks of Nudity was produced barely a year and a half ago. The Pavement Group's vision: to be the “kitchen” for new plays and new playwrights in Chicago. We strive to provide the pragmatic and institutional support to enable fresh plays to flourish. Through development, dramaturgy, and pairing of playwrights and directors, our proverbial “kitchen” provides the artistic and practical atmosphere needed for great plays to reach fruition.
Having now taken in Pavement Group's latest production, helmed by Perez, who also serves as the company's artistic director, this is a company to watch. Lipstick Traces is a fast-paced whizbang work (clocking in well under 2 hours), filled with such illuminating detours ranging from the nearly nihilistic Dada movement to the formation of the Sex Pistols that it's easy to feel like all of the wind has just been knocked out of you.

With a hardworking cast, Perez succeeds in making the audience "negotiate your taste around it," as he puts it in his program notes. That includes an excellent recreation of the Sex Pistols' infamous early interview on Britain's "Bill Grundy Show" in which Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten, played to an authentic, anarchist hilt by Joey Steakley) and his mates freely litter their appearance with expletives that would still make our stateside FCC blanch.

Taking us on this hectic jaunt down an alternate universe's memory lane are Zach Gonzalez-Landis as the smooth-talking impresario Malcolm McLaren and Heidi Koling as Dr. Narrator. Both offer terrific performances bordering on terrifying, particularly when Koling's Narrator and the industrious cast effectively connect the daringly dangerous dots spanning the fifty year gap between the Dadaists and the punk movement in such rapid-fire brilliance -- including through Paul Elliott's breathtaking video design -- that I regretted not being able to see Lipstick Traces once more to more adequately comprehend all of its nuance.

As offered by the Pavement Group, Lipstick Traces is far from traditional fare. But the challenging piece was raw and vital, as well as exciting. Credit this group for opening the live theatre, perhaps the second oldest form of amusement, up to a new generation seeking out, ironically enough, alternative entertainment.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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