A “silent movie opera” would seem to be an intriguing contradiction in terms, but that’s exactly why Outré Theatre Company added the southeastern premiere of “Bed and Sofa” to its summer season at the Broward Center.
Based on Avram Room’s 1926 silent film masterpiece, “Tretya meshchanskaya,” “Bed and Sofa” focuses on a stonemason, Kolya, and his wife, Ludmilla, living in a cramped basement apartment in Moscow. When Kolya’s old army buddy Volodya shows up in Moscow without a place to stay, Kolya offers to let his handsome friend stay on the sofa.
The sexual tension between Ludmilla and Volodya reaches its peak when Kolya has to leave town for three weeks, only to return to find he will be sleeping on the sofa, while Ludmilla and Volodya share the bed. The tension mounts between the three until Ludmilla finally must make a harrowing choice.
“The film on which the play is based was revolutionary for its time,” explained Outré artistic director Skye Whitcomb. “Its frank treatment of sex, of abortion, of women’s rights, was nearly unheard of in 1927. It’s a great show to start our ‘Power of Woman’ season, since Ludmilla is really the linchpin of the story. Rather than allowing either of the men to define who she is, she makes that decision on her own, to be whoever it is that she wants to be.”
While the subject matter is dark and dramatic, the 1996 Obie Award-winning musical score presents unique challenges for musical director Caryl Fantel.
“The score is mammoth, not like anything I’ve done,” said Fantel, who led Zoetic Stage to last year’s Carbonell Award for best musical. “There’s absolutely no hiding. Time signatures and key signatures are constantly changing. It never stops.”
And, while the score by Laurence Klaven is challenging for pianist Fantel and her Russian pit orchestra—violinist Liuba Ohrimenko and cellist Konstantin Litveninko—there are hazards all along the way for the three person cast. Outre veterans Noah Levine and Elvin Negron (“Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”) join newcomer Rebeca Diaz as Volodya, Kolya and Ludmilla.
“It’s so challenging. I’m blown away and impressed by these young singers,” praised Fantel. “There is no hiding. It’s very exposed vocally.”
Audiences will immediately recognize the stylist departure for Outré, which last mounted the rock musical “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Broward Center this spring.
Fantel predicted, “Bed and Sofa is going to surprise people because it’s not Outré’s typical fare. It’s all about taking a chance. It’s edgy, but in a different way.”
Outré Theatre Company presents “Bed and Sofa” by Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, Aug. 28 – Sept. 13. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at BrowardCenter.org.