Lurid imaginings of Salome
by Richard Dodds
She isn't identified by name in the Bible, but Salome has done all right by herself in the fame game. If she were in the news today, you just know that she'd be up there with Planned Parenthood as the Republican presidential candidates debate female troubles. It's all about Eve, Part II, where temptation is women's work.
Oscar Wilde set the modern template for the tale, which Richard Strauss then set to music. Salome, Dance for Me credits the play and the opera as its sources, but unlike those precursors, it has a sense of humor about the lurid tale while still managing to hold on to its basic horror. It was developed through the Emerging Artist Program at New Conservatory Theatre Center, where it is now having its debut run.
Billed as a "one-woman glam-rock musical," this may suggest something different from what is actually on the stage. That that one woman is trixie carr, whose nightlife reputation includes campy rock chanteuse and faux-queen innovator, might further errant expectations. What the 70-minute solo show does confirm is carr's talents as an actress, singer, and physical comedian through quickly changing tones.
Salome, Dance for Me was conceived and is directed by Ben Randle, with carr providing the spoken and sung words and collaborating with Robert Mollicone on the music. The songs range from art ballads to big-hair rock, only sometimes with tongue planted in cheek. These are intriguing compositions, and even though the musical accompaniment is pre-recorded, it is well done in Gary Roble's music production and allows carr to bring the songs to expansive life.
In this variation on the Salome story, the noblewoman Heriodias has stirred scandal by divorcing her husband and marrying his brother, Herod, who becomes stepfather to Salome. Herod keeps John the Baptist locked in a well, but is intrigued by his views on religion, and fears executing him in case John is right about the wrath of God. Herod has a more carnal interest in Salome, and, convinced of her irresistible allure, she sets out to seduce the fanatically pious John, who rebukes her approaches. Salome is not amused.
When her stepfather implores Salome to perform an erotically charged dance for him, her price is that she be served the head of John the Baptist on a platter. carr not only plays Salome, but also her mother, her stepfather, and John the Baptist – at times alternating characters between lines of dialogue. More through attitude than occasional changes in Miriam R. Lewis' costumes, carr can project the essences of the characters through broad strokes. Her impression of an overweight Herod trying to navigate his girth around the stage is worthy of Lucy Ricardo comparisons.
On Maya Linke's simple but effective set, given added dimension by Christian V. Mejia's evolving lighting design, Randle stages the piece effectively and with many imaginative touches. Monique Jenkinson's choreography is highlighted by the angular but erotic dance that carr evocatively performs in Salome's bid for the head of John so she can at last taste of his lips.
The show's only letdown comes in the final songs as Salome has her way with John's head. The music has a soft-pop sound of generic uplift that undercuts these high-drama moments. This is when carr's inner Pat Benatar needs to be let loose.
Salome, Dance for Me will run though Aug. 29 at New Conservatory Theatre Center. Tickets are $20-$25. Call (415) 861-8972 or go to nctcsf.org.