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Theater review: 'Bikini Beach Bacchae' at Knightsbridge Theatre

July 21, 2011 |  6:00 pm

B1-Dionysus (Vance Reyes) & Bacchants Euripides meets William Asher in "Bikini Beach Bacchae" at the Knightsbridge Theatre. Director-adaptor Paul Mialovich takes the classic tragedy of Dionysian revenge and he frugs, twists and boogaloos it into a 1965 beach movie milieu, with valiantly mixed results.

Things start promisingly enough, the title celebrants amassing in the lobby, playing percussion instruments and intoning an invocational prologue. Reveling in designer Lorenzo Quiroz's black-and-white mini-dresses, the Bacchants — refashioned as rebellious era trophy wives — suggest a tribe of hieratic Barbara Feldons gone psychedelic.

This groovy Greek chorus (Anadel Baughn, Christine Marie, Andrea Ramirez-Martinez and Dawn Meyer, commandeered by Ellen Karsten's sonorous Agaue) is easily worth the show, inhaling Allan Penales' "Hullabaloo"-flavored choreography. There is also inventive cheek to Mialovich's adaptation, which slots in local streets and sites, turns antihero Pentheus (Justin Michael Terry) into the mayor of Beverly Hills and imagines profaned Dionysus (Vance Roi Reyes) as a drug-happy, free love-preaching cult leader.

Though entertaining, such wacky aspects don't naturally cohere with the core savagery of Euripedes' narrative. Campy humor battles traditional overview and wins, undercutting the intended gory irony of the denouement. Although Reyes makes an amusing mix of Dick Shawn, Margaret Cho and Moondoggie, he's essentially miscast, unable to summon the requisite presence and force of a wrathful deity when needed, while Terry's reedy politico-turned-Cher impersonator is almost Groundlings fodder.

Roy Allen's Kadmos, W. Scott Norton's Tiresias and Tobyus Green's Demetrios have their moments; also, wavering degrees of technique and audibility. There's an acute curiosity factor at work, and the approach certainly gets points for creative moxie, but ultimately it's a lopsided deconstruction.

— David C. Nichols

"Bikini Beach Bacchae," Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A.  8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 7. $20. (323) 667-0955 or www.knightsbridgetheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Dionysus (Vance Roi Reyes) with the Bacchants. Credit: Dlugolecki Photography

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