Originally posted in Bitter Lemons “Fringe Femmes” | “La Bête” by June Carryl |
I’m a sucker for incredible performers. So watching June Carryl as a diva facing her downfall in La Bête – seeing her navigate the highs and lows and every nuance in between of an emotionally charged, often wickedly funny journey – makes me very, very happy.
Carryl wrote this backstage drama and has no problem stepping into the stylish shoes of Marian Davis (no, not silver-screen star Marion Davies), a fictional (I think?) African American actress who was active in the Civil Rights Movement and is now of a certain age and trying to make a comeback on Broadway… in a play that was written for her (yes?) and taps into her personal history and issues. But just minutes before her first preview, we see major warning signs. James Carey (who also directs) shares the stage as Alan, Davis’ producer and longtime friend who comes up with a scheme so that the show will go on, and he won’t lose his house. In theory, anyway.
There’s a lot of wonderful writing within this short one-act, the best of which lets Carryl soar on a gorgeous wave of theatricality. There are also questions and loose ends which leave us floundering a bit. But just when we’re looking for something to grab onto, there’s that incredible performance. And we’re off.