Written by Patrick Chavis
Music and theatre have always gone hand in hand. In some ways they pull from the same emotional well. While watching playwright Diana Burbano’s new play, we get a nicely condensed drama about punk rock, love and family. I really liked it, but I couldn’t help but feel I had seen this story done before. Of course Fabulous Monsters is its own narrative. The plot has enough differences to set it apart –especially for an older generation. Still, the positive differences felt less new after watching it and more like a rehash of another story.
What story am I talking about? It was an Indie film, The Runaways, I saw a few years back, which starred Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. The movie was based on the punk girl group of the same name. The film follows a young Joan Jett and Cherie Currie as they meet up in a punk rock bar, decide to start a band and thus quickly try to navigate through a quick rise in rock stardom that ultimately collapses. Can Joan and Cherie’s relationship hold up? (Spoiler) No not really, at least not in the movie. Now take that plot line but replace the two white girls with Jewish white girl Lulu (who may as well be Cherie) and boyish, Hispanic girl Sally (who may as well be Joan). Add in a B-plot where we get to see the future of these rock stars and you’ve basically got the story to Fabulous Monsters.
What makes it special and different are the things only Burbano could bring to the narrative. The character of Nick, who Gerado Villa-Lobs plays exceptionally well, is one of these differences. Here Nick is an already established rock artist with a rather open if not fluid sexuality. Using Nick’s character, Burbano creates an interesting love triangle between the other two characters Lulu (Lena Romano) and Sally (Anita Abdinezhad) to make a very interesting point about love, sex and what it all means.
The show also transports us to the future to let us see where the characters end up. This is the differential key that makes Fabulous Monsters its own unique story. We get to follow around a now aged Sally –who renames herself Slade –while she tries to reassemble her life after a crazy, punk rock roller coaster ride.
On a visual level the casting is perfect, and there is never any confusion regarding who someone is or why they are there. Highlighting cultural differences through the use of a Latino and Jewish lead is welcomed, but their cultural heritages aren’t really explored too much beyond being used in a few jokes and dialogues to demonstrate their differences in social class and education. The play really harps on the idea that these things don’t matter too much. What really matters is the music and the authenticity.
Fabulous Monsters is a very provocative dramatic narrative using the dangerous and reckless lives of rock stars to highlight a deeper and more profound message. However, the message and the acting feel more authentic than its strangely familiar storyline.
August 20-21 @ 8pm, August 29 @ 2pm, August 30 @ 7pm