"Lucky Strike", a Factory Theatre Lab fantasy playing at the Kennedy Center in the Theater in the Americas Festival, opens in a dark cellar with a heartbeat and faint dance band music. Through the window we see a far-off neon sign: Le Club Alhambra.
As mechanistic music builds, a man flings himself into the room. He is in agony. Either he has been shot or he has terrible cramps. He has a gun and a suitcase of money. Outside, police sirens and flashing red lights approach, overwhelm us with sound, pass on.
Later another man with another gun and another suitcase of money rushes in, or else it is the same doing a rerun. The sirens return. He scatters the money, frantically pick it up. He finds a cigarette but he as no match. He is still in agony.
All this time the lighting plays fitfully on the figures. A scantily clad girl slithers in on her stomach amid dry-ice cloud. Not a word is spoken. We learn from the program that J. W. Messinger is Eddie, a gangster on the run, and Mary Ethel Thelan is the girl Lolly, and Allan Aarons is Charlie, the rival.
We realize that we are in the presence of an attempt to immortalize the comic book, to fix forever the universal gestures and attitudes of the gangster genre, to carve it in stone, as it were.
Unfortunately it is not being carved on stone, but on our eardrums. The sound is an assault. Many people in the audience held hands over ears. Several left.
In Toronto, home of the exciting Factory Theatre Lab, critics called it "eye-popping" and hailed its "sheer outlandish pizazz." Film director Claude Jupra said, "It is not a play, it's not really mime, it's not really dance, but whatever it is, it's great."
Very well. I would like to see some other work of the theater lab. But in "Lucky Strike" I thought that author-director Hrant Alianak was personally attacking me with noise, from over-loud movie sound track schlock to electronic shrieks.
The interpretation I took from it was that he wanted me to go away.
So I went away.
"Lucky Strikes" plays today at 2 and 8:30 p.m.