BWW Review: LA RONDE At The Exit On Taylor Is A Modern Updating Of Schnitzler's Scandalous Sex Romp Adding A Feminist Perspective

BWW Review: LA RONDE At The Exit On Taylor Is A Modern Updating Of Schnitzler's Scandalous Sex Romp Adding A Feminist Perspective

La Ronde

Written by Alfred Schnitzler

Directed by Ariel Craft

Cutting Ball Theater

Artistic Director Ariel Craft puts a contemporary, superbly acted feminist spin on Alfred Schnitzler's scandalous farce exposing sexual morals across class ideology in 1890's Vienna. The play employs the structure of ten encounters between ten couples either directly before, during and after a sexual encounter. Shocking for its depiction of sex across class boundaries, Craft's version enlarges the scope, to exploring gender relationships, power dynamics and disempowerment of women.

The acts of sex in La Ronde, wonderfully staged by Craft, seem positively tame by today's standards. What's scandalous today is not the titillating voyeurism but the fact that100 years later, sex is till used to maintain the patriarchy. Usually performed with 10 actors, five male and five female, Craft utilizes two actors, both women.

BWW Review: LA RONDE At The Exit On Taylor Is A Modern Updating Of Schnitzler's Scandalous Sex Romp Adding A Feminist Perspective
Ella Ruth Francis in one of her 'female' roles.

Ella Ruth Francis and Jeuneé Simon trade off gender roles in the ten scenes, trading corseted skirts for the females and tattered coats for the males. The two seamlessly cross genders though sometimes humorous, mostly dramatic encounters of men dominating women through sex. We see a whore, a new wife, and a parlor maid all questioning whether the men "liked" them, as if feeling wanted defined their being.

The men are those in control; a soldier, a Count and a husband, using the sexual exploits like a badge. Craft could've traditionally cast a man and a woman but decided smartly that it's more potent to have a woman playing the male roles. Having two women treating other as they do in these ten vignettes supercharges the psychological and physical abuses.

Francis and Simon are excellent physical actors, circling the diamond stage like the boxers in a ring. Craft has them simulate sex acts like a scene out of Cabaret or Chicago and its extremely well-done. Morgan May Louie's costumes perfectly reflect the shabby, ragged emotions of the characters who either battle, submit, or dominate each other.

BWW Review: LA RONDE At The Exit On Taylor Is A Modern Updating Of Schnitzler's Scandalous Sex Romp Adding A Feminist Perspective
Jeunee Simon in one of her 'male' roles.

Kudos to Lighting designer Cassie Barnes and Sound designer James Ard on creating a set without set. It's always a good thing to expose inequality whenever we can and dusting off La Ronde to look at sex in a fresh way is just what Cutting Ball adaptations have been about. My issue with this production is the length, clocking in at one hour forty-five with no intermission. After the first four or five encounters, a sameness arises to the material. It doesn't help that each of its ten characters appears in two consecutive scenes. While I was enjoying the acting and the details of Craft's production, I feel like I got the picture earlier than the play finished.

La Ronde continues through April 14th, 2019 at The EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco. Tickets available at boxoffice@cuttingball.com or (415) 525-1205.



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From This Author Steve Murray

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