L-R Beth Hawkes and Margaret Odette in Revenge Song: A Vampire Cowboys Creation. Directed by Robert Ross Parker. Photo credit: Jeff Lorch.
Walking into the Geffen Playhouse, one is immediately absorbed by the deep purple hues lit throughout the lobby. I’m here with my good friend Jaden to see “Revenge Song”— a play that promises sex, sacrilege, puppets, and original music. After collecting our tickets, we move to the line at the bar. A group of regulars— I can only presume— wait in front of us complaining about slow service. I stifle a laugh and look at Jaden. The women are in heels, dressed in what looks like their Sunday best, and chattering away about the last show they saw here at the Geffen. There seem to be a strong amount of folks their age, fifties and up, but there are a great number of young adults swarming around the lobby too. Some of them, I recognize. Some of them are my peers. Even they use the night’s event as an excuse to dress up.
I avoid the line at the main bar and grab a drink from the bar in the corner. With 15 minutes remaining before the start of the show, we migrate to the patio where most folks are mingling. Above us, dim lighting from the second story flickers discreetly. Too distracted by each other to notice, people crowd around the elaborately tiled fountain. An opening in the hedges leads directly to the busy road, but the intimacy of the Geffen fools you— in this space, one feels far removed from the city; the folky acoustics transport you.
Inside the theatre, the set on stage excites the audience as people discuss what it might suggest. It hints at the fusion of a 17th century time setting and the familiarity of modern touch.
The story is based on the real-life Julie d’Aubigny (Margaret Odette), an ordinary young girl in 17th century France who defies tradition when she convinces her father, Gaston (Noshir Dalal & Jon Hoche), to let her take a job at the stables of Count Louis de Lorraine (Tom Myers) but agrees to dress as a boy for discretion. With time, she learns to fight and transitions to working in the main house as a girl, but eventually has to escape her predatorial boss. She stumbles across Emily (Beth Hawkes), who is around Julie’s age. They soon fall in love, only to be caught by Emily’s father— who sends her to a convent.
Julie recruits her good friend, and temporary lover, Albert (Eugene Young), and takes us along with them on the journey of rescuing her new love interest using a dug-up body to replace her. As we follow Julie to the convent and back, her escape to Paris and new job as an opera singer, and across numerous love interests— including the witty narrator Madame de Senneterre (Amy Kim Waschke)— the audience is confronted with subjects of identity and sexuality, facing discrimination, battling mental health, and revenge.
Writer, Qui Nguyen, and director, Robert Ross Parker, blend rock and hip-hop with fantastical elements and heroic fight scenes— all of which are interwoven with comedic undertones and deep-rooted messages of self-growth. As a franco-American, I found the critiques of french character to be especially amusing. A cast of six play over thirteen combined, presenting us with an array of complex and entertaining characters. Julie’s determination and badass moves invite the audience to route for her, despite the repeated attempts by other characters to break her down. For the queer folk in the audience, and anybody who has been pushed to the sidelines of society, Julie represents how we naturally become rule-breakers, whether intentionally or not, and in turn, we reset the standards of society. Julie is practically a superhero, but she’s also pretty relatable for a chick from the 17th-century!
Try to catch a showing of “Revenge Song” before it closes! It is playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and closes this Sunday 3/8.