Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond
December 01, 2011
A lot of words come to mind when one thinks of 60s icon Edie Sedgwick: beautiful, inspirational, fashionable, pretentious, unpredictable, tragic. And much as Sedgwick served as an inspiration for Andy Warhol in the 60s, she’s continued to serve as muse for other artists. The most recent of these may be former Bauhaus and Love and Rockets frontman David J. He’s taken her life as inspiration for a short play with songs entitled Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick) which returned to Los Angeles on Wednesday at the REDCAT downtown. And there is a certain achievement in the play, which was entirely written and directed by David J, considering that the piece itself encapsulates all of those Sedgwick qualities, both good and bad into 90 minutes. Silver and Gold can be lovely to look at and stylish but it is equally bogged down with its own pretension and problems.
The evening begins with a white stage area containing two risers covered in white scrims that will be used for a variety of projected images. David J and his band, who took no bows at the end of the show, were stationed on the three levels of one of these. In the center of the stage was a silver couch and a small table with a toilet to the side surrounded by several heart-shaped mylar balloons. As the music begins, a strobe light goes off and we watch a figure in a wheel chair, with the body of a man and a horse’s head, wheel its way across the stage. That horse/man is Norihc (James Duval) who acts as a periodic one creature chorus for the largely biographical story that follows, drawing allusions to mythology throughout. Soon after, the show’s protagonist and only other speaking part, Edie herself, arrives all winsome and full of movement. Sedgwick is played by Darcy Fowers and she gives a physically involved performance filled with dance moves and posing that are highly evocative of Sedgwick’s particular time and place. Much of this movement is accompanied by the original pop songs written and performed by David J with his band during the show. The sound will be familiar to anyone who has followed his career, and the songs, which all directly refer to Sedgwick’s life and legacy, are the most enjoyable part of the show. As the songs play, Fowers dances about without singing or speaking and at these moments the character of Sedgwick most comes to life.
Where the show runs into significant trouble is in the theatrical department. Sedgwick’s monologues about the various episodes in her life are both pedestrian and poorly written. It’s packed to the rafters with clichés about beauty and art and at several moments produced small bursts of inappropriate laughter from the audience. When the heroin-addled Sedgwick in a long black wig rolls off the couch onto the floor and begins crawling towards the toilet, you know there’s going to be trouble, and there is. The dialogue is delivered with a rather forced tone that sounded inauthentic to my ear. Having never heard Sedgwick speak, I suppose that this may, in fact, be the way she sounded and the performance was trying to capture a sort of historical authenticity. But when each vignette leaves you wondering if it is the last one or not, something isn’t clicking. Finally however, the end for both Edie and the audience arrives. There is plenty of tragedy in Sedgwick’s story, and undoubtedly a great theatrical story in it. David J has managed to tap into that with his music, but Silver and Gold doesn’t manage to translate that successfully onto the stage. The show continues through this weekend at REDCAT downtown.
Edie was a fucked-up rich girl from Santa Barbara who went to New York, did too many drugs while hanging out with Warhol's in crowd, returned to Santa Barbara and finished herself off.
If you haven't seen the 1972 "Ciao Manhattan," starring Edie herself in a fabulous mess of an avant-garde film about her own life and times, find it. I happened to be living in Amsterdam in 1972 when the film had its world premiere, shortly before it disappeared for decades, and it's one of the most amazingly weird, disturbing, and just plain unique films in history.