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Open: 02/23/12- Close: 03/04/12 Daughters Of Lot
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Aurin Squire

"Daughters of Lot" is a frustrating but daring work of theatre. The play meanders, mixes metaphors, features baffling character motivations, and requires a good deal of patience at the beginning. But it is not to be dismissed or discounted, because buried at its core is an important message for the expectations of modern women. 

"Daughters of Lot" is based on a provocative premise in the Old Testament. Many people are familiar with the story of Lot, the last virtuous man in the condemned city of Sodom. But to recount the overall tale briefly, Lot takes an Angel as his guest and when the ravenous mob requests the Angel for sexual pleasure, he offers his own daughters. As a reward for his devotion, he and his family are spared from the city's destruction but told to never look back. Lot's disobeying wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of Salt. The next part of the story isn't as widely recounted in Bible School but is still a part of the story: Lot has sex with his daughters. Believing that they were the last people alive and wanting to be obedient to God, Lot's daughters get their sanctified father drunk and seduce him. It's Old Testament stories like this -filled with betrayal, damnation, rape, incest, and alcohol- that makes the Bible so ripe for re-interpretation, comedy, and high-drama. In the case of playwright Alexis Roblan, Lot's family serves as a seductive and intriguing springboard into an evening of burlesque, satire, and feminist critique. 

On the issue of a burlesque show, "Daughters of Lot" doesn't work. It's not a knock on the writer, director, or the actor, but this isn't burlesque. The format of burlesque is supposed to tease and titillate with humor, music, and provocation. The format requires a quick wit, dirty mind, and a tongue for double entendre. In short it's cabaret with stripping and creative use of clothing and maybe some intentional wardrobe malfunctions. Nothing about the show is burlesque except for the fact that the women are dressed in seductive lingerie. It's a shame because "Daughters" lends itself to creative wardrobing and some fun in the opening moments. The jokes fall flat and the narrator repeatedly tells us that we should prepare ourselves to be shocked, instead of just shocking us. The actors seemed creaky and hesitant in the opening minutes but that could be because it was opening night. The opening part of the show is neither faithful to the format, nor offering critique and twists to it.

Burlesque acting requires a sort of split performing task: one has to be fully committed to a role and also, at any moment, capable of stepping off to the side as the performer and offering commentary. When it's done well and with careful direction, it can look effortless and there are places where that comes across in "Daughters." It's a credit to the director, Rachel Kerry, and her performers that they are able to hit a groove as the play moves forward. Marlena Kalm plays the lead narrator named Atlanta and has several touching and funny moments. Some of the work still doesn't seem fully committed but it is her work with supporting actresses Stav Meishar and Caitlin Mehner that shines best. 

The pace and purpose of "Daughters" picks up with the entrance of Lot's daughters. They leave their father who is sleeping in a cave to join the seductive narrator to find a city of men. Instead Meishar and Mehner begin to embody masculinity and what it means to be a man. This is where "Daughters" takes off. The writing becomes funnier and sharper, the acting feels fully embodied, and direction of the entire story flows with more ease. Naomi Bland and Rebecca Gray Davis play Lot's daughters with a wide-eyed innocence that soon gets sullied as they begin searching for a man. Bland and Davis get a lot of laughs out of their naivete and put in a fine performance. In turn their hosts, not only put masculinity under the microscope, but what it means to be a strong or submissive woman. The bedeviling sirens enact generations of oppression and gender indoctrination for the daughters. The story quickly spins out of control as their is a hidden sexual trauma in behind all of this.

Sadly, the writer felt the need to offer a tv-movie plot device of a slow-revealing flashback. It's  unnecessary but something that many writers feel compelled to do: write down to the audience and explain everything. If there is anything that can be conveyed to young writers and, especially young directors and dramaturgs is that audiences don't need to have everything explained to them any more. We're in a post-MTV generation of fast edits and jump cuts. Leave room for the unexplained and unexplored. Our imagination can handle some challenges. The monologue of what happened when they were young that neatly wraps up every decision, turns present-moment characters into prisoners of the past. It robs heroes and villains of their edges and dark corners, and puts everyone on the soggy therapist couch of childhood feelings. 

"Daughters of Lot" is worth seeing and a worthy effort by all involved. The show could definitely benefit from careful workshop with the writer and her cohorts. But for its message alone, it conveys the power of a new generation and a new conversation on gender and how we see ourselves. 


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Venue:
Kraine Theater : 85 East 4th Street