House of Tales (Theater Review)

House of Tales

Theater Review for Stage Raw

Reviewed by Angie Hoover

Published on 6.11.18

House of Tales, written and directed by Changting Lu, is a tragedy, but not in the way it’s supposed to be.

 More logic puzzle than work of art, the show follows an experimental format that uses archetypal imagery and conceptual language to present societal order as a threat to the human spirit. 

The lights come up, and viewers are instantly struck with the stuff of SNL parody: four solemn performers stand on stage holding bright orange traffic cones. They move, then stop in rhythm with the ticking of a metronome. A man in a windbreaker approaches and upon reaching the stage, he struggles — however unintentionally — to lift a cumbersome pylon to his mouth. “Ideology! Comparative Analysis! Social Order!” he exclaims before returning to his place in the aisle. In his absence, the performers discover folk tales that cannot and do not exist in a culture that values structure above poetry and art. This cycle occurs three times before culminating in a display that takes a page or two out of Tommy Wisseau’s book of acting techniques.

While the ensemble of artists, hailing from such esteemed colleges as UCLA, USC, and Cal-Arts, exude a palpable love for art, theatre, and performance, their presentation is derivative, pulling from influences that theatre students are institutionalized to revere but not necessarily comprehend. That being said, an intention to communicate ideas visually and unconventionally is often the starting point for innovative theatre. For a collective in its artistic infancy, it is all but necessary to venture into the realms of imitation and experimentation before reaching maturity.

The production is disjointed, messy, and desperate to be original, but in its desperation, it is somewhat endearing. There is no doubt that this collective is passionate about performance art and that their contrived efforts are merely a stage in their artistic development. The desire to give insight to the audience is clear, but a production can’t succeed on artistic intention alone. House of Tales tries so incredibly hard to do everything right, but ultimately, it reads as a collective of amateurs playing at an art form they don’t yet understand.  

The Complex Hollywood, The Dorie Theatre , 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038; Sunday, 4:30 p.m.; Through June 23; or (323) 465-0383; Running Time: 60 mins with no intermission 

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