The Conduct of Life
City Garage presents nine-time Obie-winner Maria Irene Fornes's chilling tale of torture and love. Orlando, an angry young military officer, bitter about his low rank, blames his misfortunes on his uncontrollable sex drive and his marriage to Leticia, his uneducated wife. Determined to rise within the regime of an unnamed Latin country, he becomes addicted to the dirty work of torture and interrogation. He abducts a homeless young girl who he hides in the basement and repeatedly abuses sexually to satisfy his self-destructive appetites. Incapable of expressing love, he becomes a monster, both in his public and private life, psychologically punishing the woman who loves him. The play is a fragmentary and frightening examination of the complex way power is exchanged between torturer and victim.
"City Garage is a lovely, intimate theater nestled at one end of Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Artistic director Frédérique Michel and her husband Charles Duncombe are a successful two-person-operation. They have survived and flourished since 1987 and have been the recipients of many awards. With the help from their loyal acting group, they have continued to bring their patrons the best in avant -garde theater. Their newest production "The Conduct of Life" is no exception. It is a deep look at self-loathing hatred that sinks deep into the soul of a tormented Latin male in conflict, as well as a country in turmoil.
The play is a stark look at corruption and power fueled by fear that takes over, when we don't require our policing agencies to be accountable, when society itself loses its perspective and morals are lost. When the government completely breaks down and the term "civil" is no longer important....Although this sounds like a difficult play to watch, Frédérique Michel's directing talent and creative eye made it mesmerizing and easy to watch. The acting is superb. Besides being well done and beautifully written, I think this is a socially valuable play to see."
Rose Desana, The Los Angeles Post
"Playwright Maria Irene Fornes's 1983 drama of control and tyranny gets a ferocious rendering in director Frederique Michel's fitfully stylized staging. Within the context of Fornes's sometimes disjointed dialogue and surreal plotting, Michel's production becomes more unnerving as we start to realize that, when one discusses torture and oppression, all who witness it are complicit in wrongdoing.The production to its credit is undeniably chilling, with the work's omnipresent tone of dread rendered with feverish skill."
Paul Birchall, Stage Raw
"A compact but brutal tour de force about the human capacity for violence, Maria Irene Fornes' 1985 Obie Awardwinning play The Conduct of Life has a timeless relevance. The violence in question is perpetrated by Orlando (George Villas), an ambitious Latin American military officer, who "must eliminate all obstacles" to his destiny of achieving maximum power."
- GO! Mayank Keshaviah, LA Weekly
"This challenging feminist critique of annihilating machismo benefits from the sturdy, subtle subtext supplied by an alert and mature company.Without scanting the critique of machismo, Michel teases out even more salient points about how oppression by a privileged class, even in its lower echelons, parallels sexism in its most unbridled, soul-destroying manifestation. In the process, Fornes' slippery sense of ambiguity includes leeway for absurd humor, and Michel, a specialist in Ionesco and Moliere, is ever mindful of the comic overtones of exaggerated manners and covert hypocrisies. The laughs are organic, if archly artificial, and add to both the horror and the emotional depth of nearly cartoonishly despicable characters. Fornes is determined to let no one off the hook, not even Nena's unspeakably violated victim, and Michel and her troupe elicit complexity in suggesting both motivation and culpability."
Myron Meisel, The Hollywood Reporter
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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