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Theater review: 'Mlle. God' at Atwater Village Theatre

February 3, 2011 |  3:00 pm

MlleGod1-NCTalk about Big Love. The heroine of Nicholas Kazan’s “Mlle. God” is, in her own words, “abnormally familiar with ecstasy.” Translation: She’s a slut. Her conquests too many to name, Lulu (Annika Marks) simply assigns them a number. 

Inspired by Frank Wedekind’s fin-de-siècle “Lulu” plays and Louise Brooks’ iconic performance in G.W. Pabst’s 1929 film adaptation, “Mlle. God” explores the life of a libertine for whom sex is a sacrament. Kazan’s three-part adaptation, ably staged by Scott Paulin for Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A., boldly shifts genre as the action unfolds. The play begins as a Rohmeresque comedy in a painter’s studio; the second (and best) scene accelerates into a bedroom farce; the stark conclusion takes place in prison. Rest assured, clothes are removed throughout.

Oscar nominee Kazan has dramatized another woman out of bounds (his pantheon includes “Patty Hearst,” “Frances” and Sunny von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune”), and Marks exuberantly drives the evening, skewering hypocrites and raising pulse rates. But the playwright hasn’t found a conflict equal to Lulu’s life force, and the result is a meditation on male vulnerability and female abundance that manages to be both delicious and unsatisfying. Who expected this vixen to be anti-climactic?

“Mlle. God” inaugurates the Atwater Village Theatre space, and the play’s frankness and theatrical delight bode well for a new artistic outpost on the east side of town. 

-- Charlotte Stoudt

“Mlle. God,” Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 6. $25. (323) 644-1929 or www.ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photo: Annika Marks in "Mlle. God." Credit: Patricia Williams.

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