Hollywood Fringe 2016
Two women fight for possession of one-woman show.
The Lounge seems to be emerging as the natural home of good one-woman shows; Erica Flor wanted to write a show about Erzsebet Bathory, the infamous Hungarian “Blood Countess”, a 16th Century noblewoman who tortured and murdered over 650 victims within ten years.
Lights up on a woman in a bath, when she emerges, we realize that the bath was filled with blood and the woman is naked, now stained. the woman speaks powerfully, teasingly, she wants us to appreciate her nudity, she towels herself dry and puts on a red silk dress.
The woman is the countess, the most prolific serial killer in history, regaling us with tales of her cruelty, so far so fringey; a well-researched history lesson on a quirky foreign murderess. But then something interesting happens; she twitches and shudders and in an instant we are no longer with the countess but with actress/playwright Erica Flor, who keeps getting possessed by the character she is researching. The two continue to struggle for control of the body that the countess needs to tell her story her way. The twitching becomes more violent as the piece progresses and the stakes get higher for both parties.
The device holds up very well, allowing Flor to give some back story, but also giving the countess someone new to taunt. The twitching becomes part of the grammar of the piece and the two woman are so distinct that we end up getting two shows; one is a perfectly good historical memoir, the other is an actress’s journey into her own darkness to make the character flesh.
The performance is extremely strong, this is as bold as a writer/performer can get. Flor the playwright is not quite as good as Flor the actress (there is a distracting quote from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) but that would be tough.
There is a disciplined physical language to the piece (directed and co-devised by Jeff Mills), the two characters carry themselves entirely differently but neither rings false. A one-woman show about the perils of doing a one-woman show could easily disappear up its own aspirations but the integrity of the performance makes it the opposite of indulgence. Someone is laying themselves bare for their art, and for our entertainment.
Bloody Beautiful ends up managing to match its subject matter in audacity. It has one more scheduled performance left (June 25th but deserves an extension. I highly recommend it.