Indulgences in the Louisville Harem

The mind is as great a mystery as the universe itself. It is capable of astounding scientific, artistic, and spiritual achievements, as well as self-deception and madness; it can access the past and, on occasion, see the future. Yet, like thoughts, memories, and dreams, its workings are elusive.

In John Orlock's Indulgences in the Louisville Harem, two early middle-aged spinsters are adrift in a sea of reminiscences, early 20th-Century Southern gentility and its conventions, and fading hopes of marriage. When two mesmerists—who may be suitors or con men or both—come into their lives, reality takes a strange turn.

Photo of Lori Hansen as Florence and Theresa Reid as Viola
Lori Hansen as Florence
and Theresa Reid as Viola
Moving in slow motion to an unheard somnambulistic melody, sisters Florence and Viola Becker imbue their modest Kentucky drawing room with an atmosphere of propriety. Their real-time speech, however, reveals vastly different internal landscapes.

As the 48-year old Florence, Lori Hansen appears well-measured, conservative, and parental to her 44-year old sibling, Viola, played by Theresa Reid as harboring a child-like curiosity and lively, romantic notions.

Photo of Stephen R. Kramer as Amos and Terry Burnsed as Winfield
Stephen R. Kramer as
Amos and Terry Burnsed
as Winfield
Outside their front window, we see two gentlemen callers approaching, presenting themselves in the background at intervals as if in time-lapse photography, then finally leaving a small package on the ladies' doorstep and departing.

From the start it is clear that, in Orlock's setting, Director Ed Baierlein has discovered new ways of bending time. When the contrasting worlds of the sisters and the visitors coalesce, we are drawn into a synesthetic consciousness where perception, behavior, and space-time masquerade as each other, and the medium of theatre imitates a hypnotic state giddy with acausal phenomena.

Photo of Terry Burnsed as Winfield, Theresa Reid as Viola, and Stephen R. Kramer as Amos
Terry Burnsed as Winfield,
Theresa Reid as Viola, and
Stephen R. Kramer as Amos
As Winfield Davis, Terry Burnsed exceeds last year's extrasensory performance as Leopold Bloom in Baierlein's adaptation of James Joyce's "Circe"-Chapter Fifteen from Ulysses. Speaking for both his own character and that of Stephen R. Kramer, as his partner, Amos N. Robbilet, Burnsed is a wonder of instantaneous turnabouts, altering his voice and indications as if Kramer had suddenly taken the floor.

Our disbelief suspended, Kramer then proceeds to expostulate on all manner of topics as naturally as if he were anticipating his own thoughts, borrowing another man's voice without missing a beat. Despite the ragtime piano that accompanies the entrance of the silver-tongued strangers, all four actors continue to move as slowly as the gold pocket watch that Davis wags in front of Robbilet's eyes—with the mesmerized ventriloquism that follows only adding to the already disembodied sense of the events.

Photo of Lori Hansen as Florence
Lori Hansen as Florence
Hypnotism can be, at times, a handy technique for psychotherapists, crime investigators, and charismatic leaders, but as it is used in the West, it is a tool of charlatans as often as it is a legitimate treatment for cognitive-based disorders. In Baierlein's hands, however, it speaks in a language capable of unraveling otherwise invisible convolutions of consciousness and explaining the uncharacteristic choices that lead to this story's climax and denouement.

Germinal Stage Denver's production of John Orlock's Indulgences in the Louisville Harem runs through December 11th. 303-455-7108.

Bob Bows


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