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The Global Lovers

By Tom McElfresh · June 5th, 2010 · Fringe

In a program statement e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, the director of local poet Rhonda Pettit’s The Global Lovers, has written: “I wanted to create a visually compelling, sensory bombastic performance that didn’t pull punches.” My ever reliable Webster’s Dictionary defines “bombastic" as “given to bombast” and “bombast” as “pretentious inflated speech or writing.” Bingo!

Charlton-Trujillo achieved her goal. The Global Lovers is indeed bombastic — in the fullest, most pretentious Webster sense. It's also tediously repetitious and anklebone shallow. It makes one point: There are resonances to be noted between sexual slaves — i.e., young girls (and boys) who are Shanghaied into captivity in Third World brothels — and Western women (and men) who allow advertisers to enslave their rapacious desires for everlasting beauty and for more and bigger possessions.

The point is valid. The resonances are uncomfortable.

The problem is that, having made this point clearly in the first scene, Pettit and Charlton-Trujillo go on to make the same point again and again — with increasing frenzy and decreasing clarity — for the next 45 minutes. No additional enlightenment intrudes. Even when the woman representing Western acquisitiveness succeeds in passing along her dubious values to her maturing daughter — thus Shanghaiing her into a life of greedy excess — the irony only repeats; it doesn’t deepen.

Then there’s that business about wanting to create a show that is “visually compelling” — meaning, one assumes, images and activity from which one cannot look away.

Well, there’s a rather nice, plaid wing chair, a small end table and several shipping pallets painted in bright colors. A random series of black-and-white sketches are projected on one wall throughout the play. Since they’re hard to make out and don’t seem to have anything much to do with anything, mainly they fracture focus.

There’s lots of intense movement and performance energy aplenty, mostly expressed by members of the nine-woman cast running in circles, clawing the air and hissing. At one point, several of them crowd into a humping, screaming mass and simulate the gang rape of a new brothel resident. This rape scene raises questions beyond its artistic merit and the validity of its comment on sexual violence toward young women.

Some company members are themselves young girls; program notes identify one as being 15 and another as entering seventh grade. I question whether it's appropriate for Pettit and Charlton-Trujillo to demonstrate their disgust with sexual slavery by employing underage players in scenes of grossly suggestive behavior.

The Western woman (Bett Kooris) sits in the chair most of the time hidden behind a copy of The Enquirer that never changes though eight years elapse as the play lurches along. That’s not very compelling visually, but there might be a touch of unintentional irony. The girl imprisoned in the brothel (Colette Thomas) spends the entire play on one pallet writhing, standing, cowering, agonizing, being raped and acting with silent movie excess.

One must assume that there is merit in Pettit’s poetry. She’s widely published. The brief, angular songs that introduce the play’s five scenes suggest that, as do some pungent exchanges of ritualized dialogue. But a jumbled, manipulated, “bombastic” production such as this is not the best place to encounter or savor poems.

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06.07.2010 at 08:20 Reply
While some of the points in this review are valid, it is tainted by the reviewer's squeamishness over the presence of young performers in a play that deals with such difficult material. The discomfort created by the director or playwright's choice goes directly to the point of the play's concept -- that most of us avert our eyes rather than look at these horrifying truths. I, for one, found the Global Lovers moving, despite some flaws. Perhaps the critic's job makes it hard to allow the show's intent and moments of power to override the imperfections of what is essentially an amateur production.


06.07.2010 at 08:27 Reply
I feel that the Global Lovers raises awareness of a difficult, important, and often ignored issue. The director's choice to include younger members in the cast is, in my opinion, a significant strategy -- girls and boys this age and younger are being abducted and forced into the sex trade. My experience with young actors and actresses leads me to believe that Charlton-Trujillo could have (and most likely did have) helpful and enlightening conversations with these cast members. To think these young people are not aware of such issues is, in my opinion, foolish. I also felt the pallets as set pieces was a very effective choice, emphasizing the fact that these girls and women are "for sale." Colette Thomas and Ramona Toussaint stand out as strong and versatile actresses. Colette, limited to "her" pallet, communicates a great deal about the pain and torment of her situation -- and about the confusing gratitude she feels to her "owner." The members of the chorus, challenged to play both women in the brothel and their "customers," demonstrate exceptional range. Global Lovers may not be upbeat or a "crowd pleaser," but I felt it was a strong and thought-provoking piece. Pettit and Charlton-Trujillo are to be congratulated.


06.08.2010 at 01:16 Reply
Kicked in the Shins Rhonda Pettit, The Global Lovers I feel compelled to respond to three remarks about The Global Lovers made by Tom McElfresh in his review for City Beat. He accuses the production of being “tediously repetitious” and “anklebone shallow,” and claims that it fails to provide “additional enlightenment” after Scene 1. His review, unfortunately, overlooked several key elements of the play. To read my full statement regarding this review, visit http://pinataproduction.com/?page_id=625


06.10.2010 at 11:08 Reply
This was a difficult piece for me, mostly because I am a very verbal person- I can tolerate a lot of words (well crafted). This play was very strong, as a piece on sex slavery should be, but it was not verbal. It was full of words, but the words were not being used in the conventional way. The meaning was apparent, which is what theater is about. My attempt to draw more meaning from the words just distracted me from the meaning that was always apparent in the emotions. It is not a tight story, but it is clearly communicated. I appreciate the effort and the power and the message.


06.10.2010 at 07:09 Reply
It's the same old story--start with a poem, story, or play on an uncomfortable subject--and nine tmes out of ten the reviewer will find reasons to dismiss it. And if he can do so while parading his own cleverness at the same time, so much the better. To say that the play did not add more insight and depth as it progressed is to confess that one stopped thinking early on--or maybe was thinking only of more bon mots for his review. No, it wasn't a perfect play, but few who saw it will soon forget it.Some may even be inspired to look for ways to help fight some of the evil represented in it. If I were the playwrite, I'd be proud to know my work had that effect, no matter what a cocky reviewer had to say.