|Oscar Wilde's scandalous
and erotically charged poetic drama SALOME got a rare staging by
Off the Wall Theatre in April. Censored for a number of years after it
was written, the verse play explores obsession and loss of emotional and
sexual control through the retelling of the Princess Salome's demand for
the head of John the Baptist as a reward for her performing the Dance of
the Seven Veils.
Wilde fills the play with homoerotic imagery and lush purple language, so heady at times as to create a fantasy or even science-fiction feeling. The characters, clothed in next to nothing, move as in a dream play, as they explore their twisted feelings in an exotic Bibical landscape. The Prophet may be coming to save us, but the old Gods of Carnal lust and Desire still rule King Herod's domain. Wine becomes blood, music the sounds of copulation, and human love, animal lust. Even the palace guards are caught up in the insane spiral of desire. King Herod has murdered his brother and married his brother's wife. But it is Salome, his step-daughter whom he craves. Salome gets everything she wants, almost. She can turn every head in the court, but not the head of the strange prisoner kept in the well, who says he is the Prophet of the Lord. Soldiers commit suicide for love of the Princess Salome, but she only wants what she cannot have. When John the Baptist or Iokanaan as he is named in the play, rejects her, she is determined to get revenge on him. she uses her step-father's infatuation with her to win the Head of John the Baptist. Woven into this tale of insane obesssion is a tender love story between a palace Page and a Captain of the Guard.
Director Dale Gutzman and Set-Designer David Roper created an "other-world" exotic landscape for this unusual production. Actors moved in a stylized manner, often in slow motion. Their bodies twisted and undulated on an insanely steeply raked set or grovelled in a sand pit. Words hang in the air like swords paused before descent to lop off a head. The production was filled with Middle Eastern music and was half sung, half danced. Gutzman created a totally new and unusual theatre experience for the audience.
Playing Salome was Off the Wall Theatre company member, Liz Mistele. Gutzman changed his season to do this production especially for her. She brought an erotic electricity to the stage that often captivates the audience. David Flores, a Milwaukee favorite, played King Herod and Marilyn White his wife, Herodias. Nate Press played Iokanaan, and young Tyson Monroe played the innocent Page in love with Captain of the Guard, Jeremy Welter. Thomas Welcenbach played the executioner, Lawrence Lukasavage, a Cappadocian prisoner, and Michael Davis a Jewish scholar. Gifted local actor Karl Miller and James Feeley played the two guards who observe and comment on the chaotic action of the lust driven court. Also in the cast were Kurtis Witzlsteiner and Sandee Lewis.
Be prepared for a sensual and exotic theatre experience punctuated by amazingly beautiful language.
This was a strikingly unusual production. It is why we are called OFF THE WALL.