Theater review: 'House of Gold' at the Atwater Village Theatre
Early on in “House of Gold,” presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA at the Atwater Village Theatre, playwright Gregory Moss makes his epic intentions very clear. Loosely based on the still-unsolved JonBenet Ramsey murder, “Gold” opens with JonBenet’s mother (alternately perky/vicious Denise Crosby) serving her husband (excellent Tony Pasqualini) breakfast. When he inquires what’s in the tasty sausages, she responds “JonBenet” -- a grisly revelation that doesn’t at all hamper his enjoyment of the meal.
That opening salvo -– an obvious echo of the Tantalus legend -– gives this modern-day House of Atreus a savagely surrealistic twist. It’s hard to imagine a more tragic example of youthful objectification than JonBenet, primped and prodded into an adult simulacrum of “beauty.” Once a child actor herself, director Gates McFadden brings a sense of mission to her ambitious, passionately well-realized staging, which features superlative design elements, most notably Kurt Boetcher’s stunning set and Drew Christie’s scrawled, effectively childlike animation sequences.
The “Apollonian Boys,” a feral chorus of hunky youths (who seem far more Dionysian than Apollonian in nature), illustrate Moss’ thesis that the attractively fleshly can have a dark downside. In a creepy turn, Graham Sibley’s possibly murderous pederast will make your hackles and your gorge simultaneously rise.
-- F. Kathleen Foley
“House of Gold,” Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 4. $25. (323) 644-1929. www.ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Photo: Denise Crosby, left, and Jacqueline Wright in "House of Gold." Credit: Thom Bertelsen..