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REZA ABDOH - Full Productions 1989-1993

Reza Abdoh (1963-1995) was an Iranian-born American theatre director and playwright known for his groundbreaking, experimental productions. Abdoh died of AIDS in 1995 at the age of 32, having created an impressive body of stage spectacles known for their sensory overload, ferocious energy and hallucinatory dreamscapes. Abdoh was an enigmatic and prolific creative force and with his company, Dar A Luz, formed in 1991, he created productions that have made a major impact on experimental theatre worldwide and whose influences are still being felt and talked about to this day.

  1. Quotations from a Ruined City (1993) Los Angeles - Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh

    Quotations From a Ruined City was first performed as a workshop production for the Los Angeles Festival in a former shoe store on Hollywood Boulevard. The production subsequently moved to a vacant pajama factory in New York's meatpacking district and went on to be presented by multiple European presenters. It was Abdoh's final work.

    Text by Reza Abdoh and Salar Abdoh, Directed by Reza Abdoh.

    Sound Design, Raul Enriquez and Galen Wade; Video Design, Tal Yarden; Lighting Design, Jennifer Boggs; Costume Design, Eddie Bledsoe.

    Company: Sabrina Artel, Peter Jacobs, Anita Durst, Ken Roht, Mel Herst, John Jankee, Tom Pearl, Tom Fitzpatrick, Tony Torn, Brenden Doyle.

    "Quotations from a Ruined City is a sort of apocalyptic follies: an evening of song, dance, poetry, nudity and torture set in a world whose center has clearly long ceased to hold. Created and directed by the gifted young theatrical cult artist Reza Abdoh, the work is a kaleidoscopic catalogue of images of decay and destruction that range through the centuries and around the globe."--New York Times, 1994.

    "Reza Abdoh's 'Quotations From a Ruined City' is a violent attack on violence. The promising and intermittently powerful work-in-progress--which has been one of the most anticipated events of the ongoing L.A. Festival--is a daring polemic that goes out on the edge and stays there." - Jan Breslauer, Los Angeles Times

    Quotations from a Ruined City and the Ends of Reza Abdoh:

    LA Times Review by Jan Breslauer:

    See the feature-length documentary on Abdoh and his work:

  2. Tight Right White (1993) - New York - Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh

    Tight Right White premiered in 1993 in New York at 440 Lafayette street 6th Floor

    Presented by Dar a Luz
    Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh
    Producer, Diane White

    Performers: Brenden Doyle, Anita Durst, Tom Fitzpatrick, Stephen Francis, Jacqueline Gregg, Gerard Little, Dana Moppins, Randi Pannell, TP Simon, Rafael Pimental, Carlos Rodriguez, Royston Scott, Tony Torn, James Williams

    Sets, Michael Casselli; lights, Rand Ryan; sound, Raul Vincent Enriquez; costumes, Alix Hester; video, Adam Soch; film Greta Snider; musical direction, Elizabeth Shaler; choreography, Felix Fibich, Nelson Vasquez and Flo Vinger; masks, Josep Cordona; assistant director, Juliana Francis; production stagemanager, Mike Taylor; company manager, Rupert Skinner.

    "In 1993, Abdoh premièred 'Tight Right White.' I saw this show seven times, and remember it in a way that I remember few others. Staged in a loft on Lafayette Street, across from the Public Theatre, the piece used the film adaptation of Kyle Onstott’s 1957 novel, 'Mandingo,' as its primary script. Sitting on cushions on the floor, audience members had to crane their necks to see the proceedings. Enter Moishe Pipik (the amazing Tony Torn), a long-nosed Jewish character in a huckster’s checked suit. When he pisses in a pot of earth, a money tree springs up. Moishe has a friend, Blaster, a black teen-age junkie and drug dealer. They’re refugees, in a sense—racist and anti-Semitic parodies of Jewish liberal identification with blackness. Sometimes they hang out as if they were on a talk show, their chatter intercut with all that 'Mandingo' mess, Mandingo’s black phallus looming in the minds of the white people who constructed their dream of an antebellum South on black backs. Like Faulkner before him, Abdoh offered a powerful commentary on how sex drew whites to blacks in the South, but in his version there’s nothing sentimental about the characters’ choices and fears: they’re ruined people, in thrall to the patriarchy." – Hilton Als
    From 'The Aural Dissonance of Reza Abdoh' New Yorker Magazine, June 2018
    Read Als’ full article:

    Adam Soch's feature-length documentary on Abdoh and his work, REZA ABDOH: THEATRE VISIONARY

  3. The Law of Remains (1992) - New York - Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh

    Created and directed by Reza Abdoh; produced by Diane White; sets, Sonia Balassanian; lights, Rand Ryan; sound, Raul Vincent Enriquez; costumes, Liz Widulski; production stage manager, Mike Taylor. Presented by Dar A Luz.

    Performers: Sabrina Artel, Brenden Doyle, Anita Durst, Giuliana Francis, Stephan Francis, Ariel Herrera, Priscilla Holbrook, Peter Jacobs, Kwasi Boateng, Sardar Singh Khalsa, Veronica Pawlowska, Raphael Pimental, Tom Pearl, Tony Torn and Kathryn Walsh. Drummer, Carlos Rodriguez.

    The Law of Remains premiered at the Hotel Diplomat, 116 West 43d Street, New York, NY in February 1992.

    From, NEW YORK TIMES, February 26, 1992:

    “The young Los Angeles director Reza Abdoh is notorious for theater pieces that have the decibel level of rock shows and apocalyptic imagery involving graphic sexual parody and violence. And in 'The Law of Remains,' a multi-media extravaganza staged in the abandoned ballroom of the Hotel Diplomat, he has created one of the angriest theater pieces ever hurled at a New York audience.

    "A year and a half ago, Mr. Abdoh made his New York debut with 'Father Was a Peculiar Man,' a spectacular theatrical deconstruction of "The Brothers Karamazov" presented by the En Garde Arts company on the streets of Manhattan's meatpacking district.

    "In 'The Law of Remains,' that feast has turned into a blood-soaked pageant of contemporary Grand Guignol depicting mass murder, sexual mutilation, necrophilia and cannibalism simulated by actors portraying the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (named Jeffrey Snarling in the script) and Andy Warhol and his entourage. The work is divided into seven scenes, scattered over two floors of the hotel, that are intended to trace the soul's journey as described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

    "The script incorporates lengthy excerpts from Milwaukee police reports of the Jeffrey Dahmer case. Focusing on Mr. Dahmer's beating and later murder of a teen-age Laotian boy and the casual response of the police who were called to the scene of the assault, it hammers home the point that because the victim was gay and could not speak English, the crime wasn't taken seriously and the boy was left with Mr. Dahmer. The event becomes a metaphor for governmental indifference to the AIDS crisis.

    "There is much to admire in the work, which is a skillful compendium of avant-garde styles. The director's deployment of a 14-member cast suggests the grand ensemble choreography of Pina Bausch. His herding of the audience around the ballroom to witness a series of grotesque tableaux recalls Squat Theater. And the way the youthful cast is pushed to the limits of its physical endurance echoes the Flemish director Jan Fabre's 'Power of Theatrical Madness.'

    "But 'The Law of Remains' also continually undermines its own political ambitions. The sheer density of the noise and tumult make it hard to follow. And the notion of having Mr. Dahmer's grisly crimes re-enacted as a parody of a movie being made by Warhol and his fame-obsessed minions clouds the issue by seeming to attack the Warhol ethos for its kinkiness when the intended target is the mass media's sensationalistic exploitation of serial killers.

    "Never allowed to stay put for long, the audience is rudely prodded to move from place to place around the ballroom. This unceremonious treatment is only one aspect of a production that seems to want to punish as much as to enlighten. 'The Law of Remains' is a disturbing work that runs amok in its own gory imagination."

    See Adam Soch's feature-length documentary on Abdoh and his work:

  4. BOGEYMAN (1991) - Los Angeles - Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh

    Bogeyman premiered at the Los Angeles Theater Center, August 1991

    Carl Burkley: A Wounded Bird.
    Sandie Crisp: Grandma/Fairy Godmother
    Cliff Diller: Boy With Green Hair
    Tom Fitzpatrick: The Father
    Juliana Francis: Mother/Stepmother/Nurse
    C. Gerod Harris: Son, Blake
    Peter Jacobs: Son, Billy
    Ken Roht: Son, Bugle Boy/Lorna
    Tom Pearl: Blake's Lover/Hilda
    Steffan Santoro: Starlet
    Anthony Torn: The Fifth Savior/A Serial Killer

    Producer Diane White. Sets Timian Alsaker. Lights Rand Ryan. Costumes Marianna Elliott. Sound Raul Vincent Enriquez, W. Galen Wade. Cellist Michael Black. Video Adam Soch. Choreography Ken Roht. Hair and makeup Elena Maluchin Breckenridge. Assistant director Alyson Campbell. Production Stage Manager Elsbeth M. Collins

  5. The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice (1990) Los Angeles - Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh

    The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice premiered at the Los Angeles Theater Center in 1990.

    Created and Directed by Reza Abdoh
    Produced by Diane White/LATC

    With: Juliana Francis, Alan Mandell, Tom Fitzpatrick, Amen Santoro, Bohasha

    Dramaturgy, Morgan Jenness
    Sets, Timian Alsaker; lights, Rand Ryan; sound, Raul Enriquez and Eric Blank; Costumes, Mariana Elliott; video, Adam Soch; production stage manager, Susan Slagle

    "Abdoh's 'Hip-hop Waltz of Eurydice' Is Modern Look at Power of Love: Writer-director Reza Abdoh puts his unique stamp on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in "The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice,"

    "In the original, Orpheus journeys to Hades and persuades the Lord of the Underworld to let his wife, Eurydice, go. The condition is that Orpheus mustn't look back at her as they're leaving. But he does . . . and loses her.

    December 9, 1990 | JANICE ARKATOV, LA TIMES
    "'What Reza's done is tell a myth about the force of faith--faith in love--in a time of repression and fear,' said LATC's new dramaturg, Morgan Jenness, who came to LATC in September from New York, where she had been literary manager at the Public Theatre. 'Orpheus and Eurydice have a forbidden love, and the Lord of the Underworld is a sort of fascist symbol. There are undertows of the Jesse Helms situation, the connection of love and sexuality, the fact that sex is (treated as) a bad thing.'"

    Adam Soch's feature-length documentary REZA ABDOH: THEATRE VISIONARY

  6. Minamata - Part 1 (1989) - Los Angeles - Directed by Reza Abdoh

    "Corporate greed and environmental pollution are the targets of playwright Reza Abdoh in 'Minamata,' opening Friday at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

    "Minamata is the name of a fishing village in Japan," said the writer-director ("Peep Show," "Eva Peron," "Rusty Sat on a Hill One Dawn and Watched the Moon Go Down"), who wrote the piece with Mira-Lani Oglesby. "Chisso, a company that makes parts for plastic, dumped mercury waste into the water supply and the fishermen got sick. A high percentage of the villages depended on fish and fishing so their livelihoods dried up too.

    "The story of Minamata is just the departure point for the play," the writer said. "It's the ghost behind the play, the shadow over it. The piece is a meditation on beliefs, ways of thinking, how operatives in the system create a way of thinking that makes it possible to destroy life in order to improve it. There's a thesis that in order to progress you have to allow for destruction. No. You cannot buy into that way of thinking, because it's erroneous and hurtful."

    Abdoh rejects the notion of "linear" theater: "The world is not a linear world. We don't go from point A to B to C and end up at point Z," he said. "The whole point of the 19th Century is that we were drowning in rationalism. I celebrate irrationalism. Our problem is we repress flights of fancy."

    And if the flights are obscure?

    "I don't think it's an artist's place to describe his or her work," Abdoh said firmly. "After a while, the work takes over anyway, and you have nothing to do with it. I don't want my work to be understood--because if it's understood, it's forgotten. It needs to be experienced ; if you experience, you retain a seed. We're always trying to (understand) things: 'How do you do that?' Well, you just experience it. And hopefully at the end of your life you have a distance on it: 'Oh, that's what it was. Now, onward.' "

    Reza Abdoh: Meditation on 'Minamata'
    April 09, 1989 JANICE ARKATOV



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