Presented by Minmar Gaslight Productions
You’ve likely heard the buzz about The Garden of Alla. Playwright Steven Elliot Jackson’s ode to queerness and artistry in 1920s Hollywood is a Fringe hit. And it is, absolutely, a delight. This art-deco dreamscape of mannered eccentricity is very compelling, but it didn’t strike a deep chord with me.
Jackson crafts a fictionalized account of the intimate alliances and betrayals behind Alla Nazimova’s (Rebecca Perry) passion project adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s controversial Salome. She is desperate to play the lead, have her “husband” Charles Bryant (Shawn Lall) direct, and her lover, Natacha Rambova (Neta J. Rose), design the highly expressionistic sets and costumes.
As Hollywood is about to fall into the censorial grip of William Hays, the moral eyes of the nation are trained on these three queer collaborators. Channeling Wilde and Coward, innuendo abounds and tensions flare as they exchange witticisms. Underneath all the gay repartee, their marriages of social convenience begin to fray under the strain of personal and public pressures.
Andrew Lamb’s direction maintains an atmosphere of heady elegance. Amidst the posh trappings—potted ferns, gilded folding screens and fancy decanters—our cast glide about with deliberate poise. The transatlantic accents really sell the period vibe.
I enjoyed my time with these people in their stylish, fraught world—appreciated it all from an admiring distance. It’s very classy. As a Fringe experience, it is certainly more refined than many.