Friday, December 2, 2016

Lara Parker Vs Lulu, 1971

Lou Reed released his last album on original music in 2011. LULU, an unlikely collaboration with Metallica, was called "one of the worst reviewed albums ever" by NME, which was one of the more diplomatic assessments of the sprawling 87-minute opus. The concept album was inspired by German playwrite Frank Wedekind's two "Lulu plays," which follow the misadventures of dancer-turned-prostitute who eventually runs afoul of Jack the Ripper. It was called "exhaustingly tedious" by Pitchfork, "an utter wreck" by The AV Club, and "one of the worst albums ever made" by The Quietus.

TL/DR: It was not well received.

By comparison, the 1971 stage adaption of the first of the Lulu plays, "Earth Spirit," got off light. It was savaged by New York Times critic Clive Barnes in a review that you can read in its entirety below. Lara Parker had the title role, leading an impressive cast that also included Dan HedayaDuane Jones of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DARK SHADOWS alumnus Geoffrey Scott.

As with the "Loutallica" album, it was not well received.

The Lortel archives claims LULU ran for just a single performance, which seems unlikely but not impossible. The only performance date listed is March 27, 1971, which was just three days after Parker taped her final episode of DARK SHADOWS.

"We worked four of five months on that play, and it went through many changes," Parker told me in 2013. "That play could have been wonderful. It suffered from too many ideas. When you’re acting, you’re trying to fulfill the needs of the director. ‘Say this line this way. You have to move quicker through this scene. Play her like a kitten. Play her like a prostitute. Play her like a trollop.’ You’re constantly getting badgered by all these ways to do things, but the person who’s doing the creating is sitting out in the audience."

She also blamed the play's failure on her own performance.

"It should have been played completely different than the way I played it," she said, "I played it like a kittenish little sexpot and the critics didn’t like it, as well they should not have. But, when you’re young you don’t care about bad reviews. You still have your whole life ahead of you."

Theater: Lulu Returns
First drama of trilogy by Wedekind revived

March 28, 1971


Lulu is not as bad as she was painted at the Sheridan Square Playhouse last night by a company called the Metropolitan Repertory Theater. Lulu is the eternal-feminine heroine of a classic trilogy by Frank Wedekind called "The Lulu Plays." The first of these, "Earth Spirit" is what is being given here under the more appealing title of  "Lulu."

The two plays of the trilogy, "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box," form the basis for Alben Berg's great, uncompleted opera, "Lulu," and perhaps nowadays the opera is so well-known and so highly regarded that to perform merely the play is tantamount ti producing Victor Hugo's "Le Roi S'Amuse" rather than Verdi's "Rigolette." Yet, the Wedekind is a classic European play, and the prospect of seeing it was most exciting. Unfortunately, the anticipation was almost all of the pleasure. The evening proved most tedious, but I cannot be persuaded that Wedekind was much to blame. The staging was deplorable and the acting varied uneasily between the competent and the atrocious.

Wedekind saw his Lulu as part earth mother and part immortal whore. She is all things to all men -- temptress, solace and eventually destruction. (In the sequel to this present play she ends up in London to be ripped by Jack the Ripper.) Writing at the end of the last century, Wedekind places his Lulu, a depraved yet gorgeous voluptuary, against a background of the shallow, pallid men who love her. The one man of substance who is tragically caught in her spell -- and the one man she loves -- she has to murder.

It is a strange play, full of a tortured Puritanism and that ambivalent just for sin that needs to extinguish the very thing it most hotly embraces. It is also a play that must surely be done expertly if at all. It is, after all, melodrama at a very high level, and without actors capable of walking its stylistic tightrope it crashdives to the ludicrous level of this present tatterdemalion travesty.

The director, Morton Siegel, has envisaged the play as a kind of commedia dell-arte harlequinade, which is kind of irrelevant mistake. Of course Wedekind demands a great deal of stylization -- as does his early idol Georg B├╝chner -- and there is nothing here that is intended realistically. But the stylization must carry a great deal more conviction that you will find here.

Lara Parker who plays Lulu is undoubtedly an attractive girl, yet Lulu needs perhaps less superficial prettiness and much more sensuality. Lulu is an animal -- Miss Parker is the kind of girl any boy would be proud to introduce to his mother, without any fear of Lulu seducing her.

The rest of the cast was far less attractive than Miss Parker. The whole production seemed rather a pity -- a chance bungled. But perhaps "Earth Spirit" is not the most viable of Wedekind. It might be interesting to see someone try his "Spring Awakening." But please, someone other than the Metropolitan Repertory Theater. 

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