Theater Review
'Behavior' Is a Bracing Look at the Demands of Love
Student cast at CalArts makes the grade for its work in Richard Foreman's dark, dreamlike play.

Los Angeles Times
Oct 18, 2000

(Copyright (c) 2000 Los Angeles Times)

To whatever lame financial extent, we pay our theatermakers to create visions for themselves and, depending on who "us" is, for us. Most paying customers prefer those visions neat and comforting.

But in the hands of an artist such as Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre in New York, we're happily plunged headlong into darker, dreamlike brain waves--a sea of anxiety, murky but bracing. "Bad Behavior," Foreman's collaboration with fellow writer-director Sophie Haviland, is a 55-minute anxiety attack well worth having.

In the spirit of Gertrude Stein, whose circular, musically attuned sense of language finds a blunt-spoken cousin in Foreman, "Bad Behavior" presents variations on the theme of a love affair gone south. The affair itself isn't the issue here. The emotional state--the "great inner violence" required by any leap of sensual faith--is what matters.

Five guys "play" the fretful, justifiably paranoid male figure, Maurice Beaudreaux. Arriving in "the city of the attractive women," Maurice is dogged by the undertow of a failed relationship to one Miranda Osterman, represented variously by the cast's five female performers.

The women glide and seduce like movie vamps from various eras, wearing black and pearls. The men are less sexually assured, and in this fever state, they have every reason to be. In Foreman and Haviland's text, certain lines--"Oh, no!" or "Careful . . ."--act as jittery motifs. Cheap cardboard portraits of the Virgin Mary appear. Four wheeled blackboards form a false back wall.

"Where are you hiding, Maurice?" It's a question asked early and often. Maurice never says where, but "Bad Behavior" intimates, slyly, the reasons why. He's got the shakes. The women, especially, have them literally: Seizures come and go as freely as the wind.

Much of this show's style and content owes a debt to other Foreman stagings. (I've seen just three: Moliere's "Don Juan," Suzan- Lori Parks' "Venus" and, at his Ontological-Hysteric home base, St. Mark's Church in Manhattan, the gorgeous and exhilarating "I've Got the Shakes.") Here, as in many previous Foreman outings, the audience is frequently blasted with bright, harsh light--and just as often, more wittily, a moment of revelation or transition is signified by a tiny aural pinnngggg. Out of nowhere, the ensemble breaks into a Charleston, or, sung individually, menacing renditions of "Pack Up Your Troubles," suggesting a state of mind wherein the troubles will resist easy packing.

The CalArts Modular Theater space, much deeper than St. Mark's Church, is sectioned off with Foreman's famous, taut lines of string. In "Bad Behavior," the reasons for the string are made perhaps too clear: It's there, says one performer, to "lead me to my new love." Amid all the chaos and artifice, a note of optimism? We can dream, can't we?

The student cast features a couple of genuine ringers, wonderfully in tune with this out-of-tune world. YunJung Chang is terrific: She can veer from Boop-voiced seductress to steely kiss- off artiste in two seconds flat, and be funny about it. Waleed Moursi's version of Maurice is like a question mark in motion, wide- eyed and quizzical and impish.

The project came to fruition under the banner of the Center for New Theater, part of Valencia's California Institute of the Arts. Foreman must visit more often.


* "Bad Behavior," CalArts Modular Theater, California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia. Today-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Oct. 25-26 and Oct. 28, 8 p.m. Ends Oct. 28. $10; $2 students and seniors. (661) 253-7800. Running time: 55 minutes.

Shaughn Buchholz, YunJung Chang, Monica Marie Contreras, Kathryn Falcone, Lawrence Lacey, Charles Leonard, Waleed Moursi, Adrienne Pearson, Allain Rochel, Nika SerrasThe Cast

Written and directed by Richard Foreman and Sophie Haviland. Scenic designer Peter Ksander. Lighting designer Miranda Hardy. Costumes by Katrina Werner. Sound designers Pierre Dupree and Leon Rothenberg. Stage manager Rebecca Saporito.

Credit: TIMES THEATER CRITIC Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.