at Art/Works Theatre
When the Doors first appeared at an NYC club, the Village Voice reported that "The Doors are mean, and their skin is green." That description, and smoldering photos of lead singer Jim Morrison, inspired millions to buy the band's first album and attend its concerts. Onstage, Morrison was scary and genuinely dangerous: There was a lurking fear that he might flip out and slip over the edge—as he eventually did.
In deciding to write about the complex, controversial, and contradictory Morrison, playwright Gary Flaxman set formidable tasks for himself and for Damon Shalit, who plays the role. Flaxman doubles his risks by setting his play in the hours after Morrison's death in a Paris bathtub. As with most afterlife tales, there's a conductor, here called the Transporter (Abner Genece), who presides over Morrison's trip to the hereafter and debates with him whether Morrison is to be recycled or admitted to a "higher reality."
Flaxman wants to examine Morrison's life and illuminate the era in which he lived, so the writer introduces various archetypes: a naive fan (Corryn Cummins), Jimi Hendrix (Russell Richardson), a black woman who died in the Detroit riots (Sarah Scott Davis), a GI who died in Vietnam (Jake Bern), and a peppery conservative "God Is on Our Side" senator (Steven Shaw) who regarded Morrison as the Antichrist after the singer's infamous "indecent exposure" meltdown at a Miami concert. None of these characters was close to Morrison, and it's not clear why their testimony is required, except to re-enact the social and political conflicts over the Vietnam War and by extension the current military action in Iraq.
Shalit provides a credible portrait, though the material offers him few opportunities to explore Morrison's anarchic Lizard King energy. Genece plays the Transporter with considerable verve, and the other character vignettes are well-acted but don't always move the play forward. The result is sometimes intriguing, but it's often talky without being terribly illuminating.
Presented by 44th St. Productions LLC at the Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Sep. 15-Nov. 11. (323) 960-4412. www.plays411.com/morrison.
Reviewed by Neal Weaver