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Theater Review: Revenge Song at the Geffen

Margaret Odette as Julie d’Aubigny and Noshir Dalal in Revenge Song. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Revenge is best suited to the young. With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes forgiveness and forgetfulness. Plotting and carrying out revenge takes time from more uplifting activities, plus it’s never as gratifying as hoped.

And so it is with Revenge Song, a Vampire Cowboys production playing at the Geffen Playhouse. This twisted tale of 17th century France is a pastiche of punk, projections and puppetry. It receives an overwhelmingly positive response from the appreciative younger audience in attendance. The older audience members are likely to be just plain overwhelmed by an anachronism-laden biography that mashes up ancient times and today’s #MeToo era, Hamilton, Rocky Horror Picture show and Avenue Q, with a big dose of ‘80s sensibility.

The story, written by Qui Nguyen, focuses on the life of Julie d’Aubigny, a queer, 17th-century French swordswoman and opera singer. By way of tribute, Revenge Song is heavy on the swordfighting yet contains not a note of opera. Instead the music veers between original songs in a variety of formats from hip hop to musical theater, and vintage female-led pop, rock and punk songs (Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” Bikini Kills’ “Rebel Girl”). It’s a mish-mosh of a mash-up that never completely gels; more flash than substance.

Amy Kim Waschke, Noshir Dalal, Beth Hawkes and friends in Revenge Story. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Director Robert Ross Parker, co-founder of the Vampire Cowboys, oversees the melee, ostensibly a story of one strong woman’s fight for independence against the patriarchy, nuns, and anyone else who gets in her way. D’Aubigny takes lovers both male and female, robs a grave and causes a fuss at a society ball absolutely nothing like the fuss caused by Eliza Doolittle.

D’Aubigny is indisputably a fascinating character, and as played here by Margaret Odette, she has attitude for days and mad swordfighting skills. Madame de Senneterre (Amy Kim Waschke) throws in some martial arts moves as she segues between narrator and story participant roles. The other actors, Noshir Dalal, Beth Hawkes, Tom Myers and Eugene Young also play a variety of roles–lovers, fighters, and royals–with enthusiasm and flair.

Underpinning the extreme comic energy and frenetic fierceness are political statements about equality that get overpowered by the nonstop and sometimes confusing action, music, and projections.

Revenge Song was commissioned as part of the Geffen Playhouse’s New Play Development Program. It’s definitely different from their regular fare and ambitious in scope. See it for the unique moments, which begin with the opening “Coming Attractions” and end with a partially cheering crowd.

The cast of Revenge Song. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Revenge Song plays at the Geffen Playhouse through March 8. Show times are Tuesday–Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. Tickets are $30-120 and are available here. Runtime is two hours including a 15-minute intermission.


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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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