Kong! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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The Factory Theater.

Nothing in the program acknowledges the source of George Brandt and Jean Paul Manoux's Kong!, adapted and directed by Bo Blackburn, but it is of course David O. Selznick's 1933 horror/adventure classic King Kong: this staged send-up lifts whole chunks of dialogue and several indelible images. But though the ten cast members have more energy than several kindergarten classes combined, they display only a passing acquaintance with the snappy, tough-talking, film-noir style the play hopes to spoof. The result is satire without direction or purpose.

The original King Kong is its own best parody, and not only because of its incredibly hokey dialogue and implausible plot. The film--about showman-adventurer Carl Denham, desperate to turn a profit by making a movie about an overgrown ape--offered its own ironic deconstruction 30 years before the term was coined. As though speaking for Selznick, Denham insists that he can draw an audience only by putting a sexy, simpering actress into the beast's clutches (a truth evident not only in the original film's success but in Dino De Laurentiis's big-budget remake 40 years later, two hours of thinly veiled soft-core porn featuring Jessica Lange). During a screen test, Denham puts his starlet through the paces of helpless female terror--gaping eyes, trembling hands, copious screaming--while she stares up at empty space. When the "real" Kong appears, the starlet responds in exactly the same stereotyped manner; after all, Fay Wray was staring up at empty space as well.

You've got to work awfully hard to beat Selznick at his own game. The Factory Theater isn't up to the challenge: their Kong! simply doesn't have much bite.


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