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.
(Get upcoming performance dates and venue details here.)