The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has offered a varied theatrical buffet this summer, along with its daily (free) Millenium Stage performances, which continue to be a terrific gift to the community. Kudos to the centre for importing The Almeida Theatre Company's production of Nicholas Wright's adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Lulu (Washington is its only U.S. venue). The only negative re this fine production, with its riveting performances by Anna Friel and Alan Howard, is the cavernousness of the Eisenhower Theater. A more intimate setting would generate a more visceral impact, but even in the vast Eisenhower Lulu packs a wallop. Wedekind's tale of sexual obsession and degradation is well served by the luminous Friel, who is especially powerful in her scenes with Howard, so compellingly corrupt as Schoning that his demise threatens to deflate the play, although the second act picks up as Lulu's existence becomes increasingly desperate and terrifying. The conceit of this production depends heavily on design (Rob Howell), lighting (Mark Henderson), music (Jonathan Dove), and sound (John A. Leonard), all complementary to the macabre mood established by director Jonathan Kent.
Plays International, September 2001.