Those familiar with the theatrical touch of writer-director-designer Stephen Legawiec will recognize many of the elements here: the colorful shiny fabrics, the stylized performances and dances, the location in an exotic but not clearly defined place. But there's a different feel this time out. Laurent Tardy's moody, laconic sound design, which works nicely with Dan Reed's subdued lighting, creates an atmosphere in which Legawiec's almost Brechtian tale about the improbably unscrupulous, and as a result improbably rich and powerful, Kabara Sol and his antithesis, the naive and feckless Genny the Boot, plays like film noir. That the piece is set in the sufficiently remote 1930s in an unnamed Southeast Asian port only aids in the illusion.
Dana Wieluns plays both of these part--as they are the same person, so do read the program notes about enantiodromia--and does an impressive job. Her Kabara Sol is a dapper grotesque in a mustard suit, a man who speaks with an accent that is both consistent and hailing from no distinct region whatsoever. The clumsy and childlike Genny, on the other hand, with her bangs and big glasses and large shoes, looks and sounds like a Mary Engelbreit child who was a little too punky to make the note-card cut. Wieluns also plays one other part, that of China Drago, the requisite opium-addicted waterfront chanteuse. The look is luscious but the singing voice, well, we're going to have to ascribe it to the ravages of the poppy. The ensemble (Amy Rose Drucker, Kerri Duncan, Julia Emelin, Anna Healy, Angela Meilandt, and Jhana Weekes) is silent, its members' pale faces registering the full range from anguish to nothing at all. Often called upon to dance (Wieluns choreographs), they deftly capture the restrained style of the piece.
Sets and costumes are handsomely achieved with a minimum of fuss. The posters on the upstage wall, with the face of the figure obliterated, give the area a look of style touched with malevolence. The arc of the story is surprisingly eventful yet effectively conveyed, playing at a spare, cleanly directed 85 minutes (no intermission). Just like a movie.
Presented by the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble at [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Jan. 18-Feb. 11. (310) 842-5737. www.ziggurattheatre.org.