Los Angeles Theatre Review: The Exorcist (at the Geffen Playhouse)

Scenic Designer Scott Pask created a gorgeous Gothic set which accentuates the sweeping gestures of the play’s grand Catholic themes. A thick life-size cross hung from chains lords over the single-set stage comprised of an altar which doubles as a a bed surrounded by tall wrought-iron walls. The grandiose fixture envelops the proceedings and provides a rest area for actors not in a scene (no one ever leaves the stage). Jane Cox’s lighting bathes the proceedings in high contrast, sometimes decorated by a wall of thick lit-up ribbons and fog emanating from the wings. Aside from Regan levitating (I have no idea how magician Teller pulled it off) and a surprise in the finale (which you won’t see in the film), the minimalist production has little special effects other than some sound-distortions, including moments when the possessed Regan speaks.

One of my (as well as Pauline Kael’s) main beefs with the film was what the filmmakers put 13-year-old Linda Blair through. While the movie is both shocking and effective, it’s difficult to reconcile the price that had to be paid. In the staged version, the able-bodied Yetter (who sounds like a little girl, but is of an indeterminate age) engages in contortionist moves that simulate the bulk of Regan’s physical possession. Even the nasty things that come out of her mouth are spoken by an ensemble of males, including a voice-over (similar to how Mercedes McCambridge provided the demon’s vocals in the movie, but less insidious and more Zurg) and the urination scene is simulated. The evil that lurks within her is telegraphed, perhaps convincingly enough for those who believe in supernatural evil.

The Exorcist is 95-minutes without intermission and plays through August 12th.

Originally posted at Cinesnatch.

Photo via Geffen Playhouse

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