Sci-fi 'Flow' doesn't quite go Theater review: Effects are more spoofy than special in Desire Productions' ambitious "Flow My Tears."

March 04, 1996|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Big budget science-fiction movies may have forever ruined the field for the little guy -- especially in theater. Desire Productions' staging of "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" at the Theatre Project is a casinto such Hollywood hits as "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall."

Of course, a small local theater company -- even Desire Productions, which specializes in multimedia -- can't begin to approach the special effects capabilities of Hollywood. The wise thing would be not to even try, to opt for minimal staging and rely on the imagination instead, as Dick's novels do.

But that's not the path chosen by director Kirby Malone and his numerous designers. Malone and company have opted for realistic science fiction, if there is such a thing. And, with the exception of Malone's slick trademark slide projections, the physical production comes off more like a spoof in the style of the kitschy cult TV show, "Doctor Who."

How Whovian is "Flow My Tears"? Well, for starters, there's the headgear: Jimi Kinstle, who plays the lead, wears a strip of touch fastener on top of his head, to which he attaches a small royal blue hairpiece shaped like a set of shad row; Angela Crepeau, as an ex-mental patient who falls in love with him, wears a knit cap crowned with what looks like a curved antenna and metal hair curlers; Joan Weber, another woman in Kinstle's life, gets a wig with an electric light in it.

Then there are the props: Kinstle has a Dick Tracy-style two-way wrist TV; the folks he calls are framed by a blank TV-screen cut out of a box; and a device for viewing 3-D photos turns out to be a kid's Viewmaster.

All of this leads to the suspicion that Desire Productions is trying to make a campy comment on "Flow My Tears," which was adapted for the stage by Linda Hartinian and originally produced by New York's acclaimed experimental troupe, Mabou Mines. But the acting style suggests otherwise, as does Dick's serious-minded theme -- the horror of losing your identity.

Some of the intricacies of the plot also get lost, but the gist of it is that a TV star named Jason Taverner (Kinstle) wakes up one day to discover that no one knows him -- not his agent, not his lawyer, not his 30 million fans. Worse yet, he's wanted by the police, led by a sadistic general played by Dana Whipkey in a kicky little skirt and tights. The pols, as they are known, are convinced Taverner has broken who-knows-what laws by erasing his identity. They don't know who Taverner is, either, of course. That's what worries them.

Eventually Taverner finds someone who not only recognizes him, but knows what happened to him -- a sex-and-drug-addict who is also the general's twin sister and wife (that's right, she's a two-fer, and it's to Shannon Hepburn's credit that she keeps this scummy character from turning into a total joke).

The explanation of Taverner's predicament turns out to involve parallel universes -- a solution that will disappoint all but devout sci-fi fans. But then, Desire Production's tacky take on Philip K. Dick probably won't please them, either.

"Flow My Tears"

Where Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Admission $14

Call (410) 752-8558

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