For the week of February 3, 1999  thru February 9, 1999  

Where desire leads

Sam Shepard's 'Seduced'


"I'm tellin' you, this guy is out of erasers," says sunny, gum-snapping, Miami in Sam Shephard's tragic comedy "Seduced." The guy is Howard Hughes clone, Harry Hackamore. Miami and her dark, mysterious counterpart, Luna, resurrected from Hackamore's past, have traveled by private jet to a secluded enclave south of the border for a final tete e tete with the reclusive zillionaire.

Hackamore is insane, his hair long and stringy, his toe and finger nails curved lengths of ectoplasm. He's afraid of all he can and cannot see, staving off germs with paper towels and sweet, aimless reveries.

Tomorrow through Sunday at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum, the Sun Valley Repertory Company will present "Seduced" with a stellar cast including Obie award winner Bill Raymond as Hughes, Pamela Sue Martin as Luna, Danielle Kennedy as Miami and Scott Creighton and Jonathan Kane as Hughes' long-suffering servants. Linda Hartinian, Raymond's wife and an award-winning set designer, actress and writer, among many other things, directs.

"When 1 look at Shepard, the language seems quite naturalistic," explained Raymond, "but sitting down with it, on closer examination, it is an extensive and exhaustive study of a metaphoric American icon contemplating his mortality from the springboard of Howard Hughes. It's a story about a brilliant man who has an intrinsic flaw and the flaw is compounded through ignorance, greed, and lust. Hughes came from a strange family, had hearing difficulties, contacted syphilis at an early age which was never really arrested. It's ironical his dying in this impoverished kind of way. He actually died for lack of water."

There are true lines of brilliance in this play. Shepard seems to understand Hughes, certainly much better than we. When Hackamore tells his servant Raul to pay attention to the two women who will soon be arriving, it becomes clear his relationship with them was more than a quick communion.

"I want you to constantly remember, as you're taking them in with your eyes, that at one time or another I've penetrated every single one of them. Every last one. Right to the core. Straight to the heart," Hackamore hisses.

Later when Raul assumes a kind of condescension, an all-knowing pose, Hackamore snipes: "Why does it seem like every nuance in your verbal patterns is designed to hide some sneaky truth? Like you're standing there watching me through a one-way mirror when I can see you plain as day?"

The play may be as much about Shepard -- his notorious womanizing, his brilliance, his insight into the future -- as a "penetrating contemplation or menration on the notion of his death and circumstances," Raymond says.

 Hughes' relationships with women were magnificent obsessions. According to Peter Brown and Pat Broeske in Howard Hughes: The Untold Story, Hughes "scoured dozens of magazines, ripping out pages of girls he liked...He kept track of car shows, hairdressers' conventions, and beauty pageants across the country. He would scrutinize movies, looking for extras with something extra...Afterwards, the girls would learn what it was like to be part of a modern-era harem."

Once in the "harem" the girls were watched over by specially assigned staff. A "care and feeding" manual restricted each girls' ice cream to one cone per day and warned staff against jarring them when driving over speed bumps -this to save their precious breast tissue. If Hughes decided to bed a miss, no pork products. Hughes hated a gal with gas. The women were also under 24 hour surveillance, their phones tapped, every move they made reported back.

"One New Year's Eve Hughes had three different starlets in three different hotel rooms," retells Hartinian who is by now expert in the Hughes' legend. "One was Susan Hayward, one the teenage Yvonne Shubert and the other Jean Peters (who after an 11-year courtship would become Mrs. Howard Hughes). He would pretend to get a business phone call and move from one room to another. Soon Susan Hayward decided he had had one too many business calls. 'I don't believe that many people are working on a holiday' she told him and walked into the other room to find Peters. 'I'm date number one,' she said. 'And you're number two.' The two walked out together."

"In the play, Shepard uses the two women, Luna and Miami to get into Hackamore's life," said Kane who first brought Raymond and Hartinian from New York City to Sun Valley to do a production of "Never Settle the Night" in 1995. "These are the characters, the sun and the moon, the blond Jean Harlowe and the brunette Billy Dove."

Martin's Luna is a tease, taunting Hackamore on the eve of his demise. She is beautiful, strong, yielding yet apart. There is more here than meets the eye and Martin plays it perfectly.

What better choice than Danny Kennedy cast in the part of the sun. She is the compliant one, the "nice" one, a former Vegas showgirl in the center of a deadly trap.

''These are brilliant actresses," said Raymond. "There's a lot of great take with them. I don't have to worry about making mistakes. And working with Scott is like playing jazz."

Raymond's performance last weekend at the Sun Valley Center in David Mamet's '`The Duck Variations" was dazzling. A veteran of the San Francisco Actors Workshop, a prototype for regional theater, he's worked with such Hollywood luminaries as John Sayles, Mike Figgis and Terry Gilliam. He's played in numerous episodes, "always the bad guy" of "Miami Vice," and "Law and Order," and won Obies for best director and performance in Mabou Mines' "Prelude to Death in Venice" and best performance in an unconventional look at Ulysses S. Grant, "Cold Harbor."

Other film credits include "Spring Forward" a Tom Gilroy film with Ned Beatty, Frances McDormand and Lily Taylor, "City of Hope" and the Stephen King mini-series "The Golden Years."

Hartinian is undoubtedly a creative genius. A painter, a performance artist who once created a piece entitled "Stand Up and Paint Like a Man (and win a car)' which became the talk of the 1970's avant garde, a two time winner of the American Theater Wing's Joseph Maharam Award for Design for Mabou Mines' "Cold Harbor" and "Hajj," she is also the first to have used a hologram on stage.

"It was for 'Imagination Dead Imagine' a short Samuel Becket novel," remembered Hartinian. ''This laser technology you use to make the hologram, when we first started asking for help, a lot of it was locked up. It was still top secret and actually, left over stuff from Hughes [Aircraft].

"One of the things Hughes was working on with his friend the FBI guy Mayheu was, they had this idea -- tax payers actually paid for this -- to mount a special cylinder to make a hologram on a submarine and to do this sound and laser show of Christ appearing as The Second Coming. A voice in Spanish would say that this is the second coming and Castro is bad and, you know, over throw Castro. And that was actually on the drawing board. They found the papers. We paid for them and used part of it for the show."

MIT scientists told Hartinian she could never produce the 360 degree stereogram. She knew she could.

"We did it with things like aluminum foil and hair pins...it was a little too creative. The thing was made up of objects. Instead of having a straight forward curve it was a telephone When you first looked at it just looked like an Italian Baroque thing and then when you looked at it you saw it was a telephone or a toothbrush. Things from everyday life. It was actually pretty great. What people said was impossible was that a hologram could only be seen by one person at a time. I didn't depend totally on the 3 dimensional effect I used theatre. I ran the audience in a cone, because I do know enough physics to understand optical laws."

Hartinian was also a close friend of legendy sci-fi author Philip K. Dick

(Bladerunner) whose Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said she adapted for the stage. She is a founding member of Painting Space P.S. 122, a sculptor and amom.

Jonathon Kane, of course, is a great devotee of the theatre -- a small producer with a big vision and a true Sun Valley treasure.

"Seduced" performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, $20 for priority seating.. For more information call, 726-3706.

 

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