Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Length of a Pop Song
Also see Richard's review of Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea
The girl in question has been concentrating on the "adult" variety of relationships since she was a teenager. Adorable spitfire Rhiannon Skye Creighton plays Lex, who has become an internet porn star against her will. It's now a few years after she has been publicly exploited in roughly ten sex videos online, with one of those getting a quarter million views, in this fictional account. Young women with similar problems join a lawsuit against porn websites, but then ask her to leave the suit, because of Lex's voluntary sexuality. The results of their collective criminal and civil cases (recited with grisly aplomb by Lex's mother, played by the splendid Donna Parrone) are both realistic and blood-chilling.
Until then, Lex is in and out of psych wards, in this fast-paced story, having become an American untouchable. There are modest, evocative lighting effects and a Virgin Mary statuette that miraculously survived being hurled at a drywall panel at the matinee I saw. Artfully done flashbacks mesh with nerve-wracking scenes between Lex and her mother, who serves as the stubborn soul of stability. Like that Virgin Mary statuette (that wouldn't break), Anna, the mom, somehow survives dozens of emotional impacts. Though you can see the aftershock in her eyes.
The action takes place on a startlingly empty black set, where a girl's brass bed, a small desk, and a nightstand are all huddled together, like some fetish of normalcy. Tesseract Theatre co-founder Taylor Gruenloh wrote the script, and very quickly the stage is invisibly festooned with Catholic guilt, familial conflict, and layers of grievances, under the thoughtful direction of Karen Pierce. Nearly every scene, till the last one, seems to end on a note of withering accusation, poetic longing, or the hint of pending suicide, as a challenge to her mother, or a plea for understanding, to her high school friend (played by the warm and pained Kelvin Urday). The whole show is meticulously great, and the upbeat ending will come as a thrilling surprise.
Considering the grueling emotional content and the nation's inexcusable lack of privacy protections, you may wonder why anyone would want to go and see it. Art, here, imitates a twisted modern life that no one wants to acknowledge. But the play has something else that most lack: a fine madness that never fails to tantalize, thanks to Ms. Creighton–it's as if Hamlet were an all-too-liberated young woman from north St. Louis County, instead of the prince of Denmark. Is she crazy? Or just clamoring for a fulfillment that has devolved into something purely sexual?
As with the madness of Hamlet, it becomes an impossible question.
The Length of a Pop Song runs through July 17, 2022, at The Tesseract Theatre, Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive (about four blocks east of Powell Symphony Hall), St. Louis MO. Parking is ample, in a fenced, lighted lot, or on the street, at Leonard Ave., a block west of Compton Ave. For tickets and information, please visit www.tesseracttheatre.com.