“THE CHANGELING:” SEX AND DREGS AND BLOOD AND GORE AT LB PLAYHOUSEBy Greggory Moore
Long Beach Playhouse has had bad luck with me since staging Cloud Tectonics, my favorite thing they’ve ever done. Their next choice, Macbeth, I just don’t like. Now comes The Changeling, which is not my style. Worse yet, I was called away during intermission. So this review can be neither fair nor full.
The Changeling centers on Beatrice (Terri Mowrey). Betrothed to Alonzo (Nick Ventra) but in love with Alsemero (Conor Turoci), she recruits one of her father’s servants, De Flores (Rick Kopps), to kill Alonzo. But De Flores blackmails Beatrice, whom he loves (for no reason in the world that we can see), into carnal relations with him. A far lighter subplot involves a man’s committing his far younger and more sexually hungry wife to an insane asylum, various inhabitants of which try to get into her pants.
Let’s face it: even Shakespeare rarely wrote dialog that sounds remotely naturalistic today. So it’s tough to hear lesser lights like Thomas Middleton and William Rowley and not feel that their work is fatally dated. That impression is compounded by the constant stream of sexual innuendo they blast down our throats. Perhaps Freud is right and everything comes down to the sex drive. That doesn’t mean every allusion to sex is compelling.
I don’t know whether LB Playhouse chose The Changeling for its artistic merit or as a souvenir of theatrical history, but at the very least the play succeeds on the latter level. Nobody writes theatre like this anymore—and without such plays, we wouldn’t be in the relatively sophisticated position we are today. Seeing a piece like this helps us see that the road here was paved with more than Shakespeare
One thing LB Playhouse does to spruce up The Changeling for the modern eye is to give it a modern coat of paint. The costumes are half punk and half leather fetishism, and the music is fully modern. Some night lighting by Jeremy Ojeda helps achieve a dank tone.
LB Playhouse also deserves credit for their willingness to get graphic with the sexuality and gore. So often theatre companies insist on your suspending your disbelief when it comes to sex and nudity, but cast and crew here go balls to the wall—almost literally. If you’re offended by nudity, stay away from this show. Ditto if you’re stomach is turned by gore.
Unfortunately, the stiffness of the script makes it hard for the actors to keep things lively (in Act One, at least). But Kopps does a nice job with De Flores, bringing the creepy while delivering his lines with an unforced precision.
The days when the Long Beach Playhouse could be fairly criticized for being a one-trick populist pony are long gone. You may not like all the tricks, but see a string of productions at the Playhouse, and you’re bound to receive a breadth of the theatrical experience.
THE CHANGELING LONG BEACH PLAYHOUSE • 5021 E ANAHEIM ST • LONG BEACH 90804 • 562.494.1014 LBPLAYHOUSE.ORG • FRI-SAT 8PM, SUN 2PM • $14–$24 • THROUGH SEPT 29