Gutsy and gonzo, this wild ride runs through November 5th at Odyssey Theatre.

By: Oct. 22, 2023
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BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) is a dark, intense fever dream of a show performed and written by Asta Leigh, at the superb Odyssey Theatre in West LA. I would describe BEFOK as an edgy, one person drama with flashes of performance art and dark comedy. The comedy is on the extreme cringe side, like a darker version of Christopher Guest’s gem Waiting For Guffman.

Writer-performer Asta Leigh’s alter ego Lola is a desperate, failing actress on a crazy rollercoaster ride, who will do anything to get the attention of Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Birdman and The Revenant. Whatever Lola touches, she quickly turns into destruction, failure, and chaos. Anyone who has been in the entertainment industry may relate to her feeling of speeding two hundred miles an hour towards a wall.

Credit must be given to Asta Leigh, who is a vivid storyteller.  Recalling the show, I feel like I have witnessed all these different scenes, including all the characters, but in fact, I only witnessed Asta Leigh talk about them.  She can truly be the entire show herself and populate it with her own vibrant acting and truly seamless, brilliant sound design by Mark McClain Wilson.

Asta Leigh stars in BEFOK 
(or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu)

BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) is a phantasmagoria of scenes, monologues, and sketches. I don’t want to ruin the many vibrant twists and turns of the show for anyone, so I will just mention a few. Lola is thrilled to score some pick-me-up cocaine in a bathroom at at a Hollywood party where she hopes to pitch herself to Leonardo DiCaprio, but instead she ends up taking ketamine and has an intense sweaty freakout, which she ingeniously shows with a modern dance performance. Later, she is reluctantly pulled into a sordid evening with a Very Important Hollywood Person who can get her a chat with Iñárritu. The Hollywood Person begs her to torture him with his intimidating spread of S&M toys. At first, Lola participates tepidly and reluctantly, but then as she imagines her father and all the horrible things he’s said to her, she begins to beat this man with real enthusiasm. In the end, bleeding, the man begs her to leave.

When Lola is asked to babysit a sick chicken, she mutters about her home continent “in Africa, that thing would have been headless and in a pot two weeks ago.” But she ends up bonding with Rosie the Chicken, who becomes her best friend. This is shown in a series of I Love Lucy style vignettes complete with laugh tracks, where she confides her deepest concerns to Rosie and works on acting scenes with her. The chicken scenes were my favorite part of BEFOK. They are delightful. It is with true horror that we see Rosie, her best friend chicken, die because Lola forgets to give Rosie her medicine.

Review: BEFOK (OR THE DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO IMPRESS IÑÁRRITU) at Odyssey Theatre This is the kind of dark comedy that pushes us to the boundaries of what we will accept as an audience. I have to confess that the train wreck / hot mess species of female comedy, which has become quite dominant in the last 15 years or so, is not my favorite style.  I instinctively recoil when watching women humiliate themselves and portray themselves as pathetic, undesirable, unstable, and desperate. Watching BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu), I want Lola to have some kind of catharsis, redemption, or success. The character of Lola has a list of flaws a mile long, but I still want to see something good happen for her. One can hope at the end, perhaps, she will encounter Iñárritu again, maybe standing next to him with her shopping cart at Whole Foods, and the lights will fade as she catches his eye.

BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) was developed over time by director Matt Ritchey, yet it feels like a show a bit early in its lifespan. Its edgy jaggedness may be for some audience members part of its charm. BEFOK was a hit with audiences at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and Fringe often features the kind of shows that feel like an expanded stand up or Saturday Night Live skit. The parts of the show where Asta Leigh talks about South Africa, offensive South African swearing, and South African history are pure gold. They are dark, hilarious, and insightful, and I would have loved to see more of them. I would have loved to hear more about Afrikaans, about her horrific family life, and growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. Asta Leigh seems like a very fascinating character herself, beneath the Lola alter ego device, and I would love to see more of her.   

At times the character of alter ego Lola feels like a deranged, off-the-wall take on the character of Antonio Salieri from Peter Shaffer’s classic play Amadeus. BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) is intensely memorable and stunningly unique. There are no filters here, no boundaries, no fairy tale endings. How often do shows plunge full throttle into failure, despair, the petty humiliations of every day life, and the ugliness and ultimate futility of dreams and ambition? BEFOK makes Death of a Salesman look sentimental.

Review: BEFOK (OR THE DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO IMPRESS IÑÁRRITU) at Odyssey Theatre Asta Leigh does this style of uncensored, sentiment-free, train wreck storytelling as well as, or better, than anyone.  She digs into this despairing character of Lola with no inhibitions, no ego, and no fear. Asta Leigh performs Lola with utterly committed, fearless intensity, gutsiness, and immense, lip-smacking relish. It’s a totally gonzo, the-wheels-are-off, mesmerizing performance.

As always, the Odyssey Theatre creative team is vibrant, fresh, and brilliant, and this show is extremely well produced by powerhouse producer Beth Hogan. Lighting design by Jackson Funke is innovative and imaginative, and vividly captures the moods, scenes, and vignettes of the show.

BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) is a wild and crazy ride.

Photos by Cassandra Ropert

BEFOK (or the Desperate Attempt to Impress Iñárritu) runs through November 5 at Odyssey Theatre. Odyssey Theatre is located 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90025. Parking is free on site. You can get tickets by calling (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or by clicking this:


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