What is "thrance," you may ask? Well, it would appear to be the brunch of performance, wherein two related concepts are combined to create a third, the specifics of which are left up to the creator. In this particular instance, director/choreographer Jessica Schroeder has taken that sultry, Faulkner-inspired cinema classic The Long Hot Summer and shoehorned recordings of Ray Charles into it. While Charles croons, the cast executes dance steps with varying degrees of success, exemplifying both the theatre-plus-dance and the thrash-plus-dance aspects of this peculiar hybrid. Oh, and all the genders have been reversed, but I think that's just Schroeder being silly rather than an intrinsic part of the thrance experience.
Once in a great while—no, make that once—the concept works. When Shani Tennyson and Lucius Bryant III break into dance to illustrate the carnality of their characters' relationship, it's quite hot and nicely underscores what came before. Generally, though, the show stops so that a song with an illustrative title can be played and the performers can engage in completely unmotivated movement. For instance, when Samantha Quick (Amy Wolf) arrives in town (the Paul Newman role in the film), the locals suggest she move along, aware of Quick's reputation for igniting barns and passions. Long after the point is made, everything comes to a halt so the townsfolk can line-dance while "Hit the Road, Jack" reiterates the sentiment. When it looks as if the song is finally over, the lights go down and there's an odd little musical tag followed by a remarkably sluggish scene change. Why it takes so long is beyond me, as David Moore's handsome set isn't an overly complicated thing.
A wealth of performance styles go on. Wolf plays her part pretty straight, though she brings to mind not so much the laconically sexy Paul Newman but rather the disdainfully frigid Joanne Woodward. Heather Seiffert, as a sort of Southern hothouse flower, is the only one to quietly explore the camp possibilities as she employs her downcast eyes and an adept way with a fan. Meanwhile, Arimah Trinidad as the town matriarch (this was Orson Welles in Big Daddy mode) engages in some major scenery consumption as she stomps bandy-legged, chortling with glee while punching the air with her cheroot. It sounds terrible, I know, but I just kept seeing Popeye in heels. Not to be outdone, Joseph Beck and Peter Cilella as "Women of a Breed" spend their time in front of the general store doing Hee-Haw. The costumes (Trinidad and Etta Ray), oddly, are perfectly matched to each disparate style.
"Slow Burn—A Southern Genderbent Melodramatic Thrance," presented by the Outlaw Style Thrance Co. at the McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. May 31-June 22. $15. (323) 860-6503.