Jessica Green and Khris Lewin in Fetes de la Nuit
(© Jill Usdan)
Jessica Green and Khris Lewin in Fetes de la Nuit
(© Jill Usdan)
It's Valentine's Day at every performance of Charles L. Mee's Fetes de la Nuit, now premiering at the Ohio Theatre. Even if Mee's work has not always been your cup of greasepaint -- and this piece runs a bit too long to completely sustain its non-narrative structure -- this sensationally directed multi-media meditation on love will charm, entertain, and fully engage most audience members.

The action of this play takes place in Paris, which is the perfect metaphorical place to set a play about love. To get the flavor of the piece, consider one scene in which a young American in Paris meets a beautiful woman and immediately asks her to marry him or, at least have a cup of coffee with him that might lead to marriage. Being French, she is not immediately impressed by his ardor, but his charm wins over both the girl and the audience. Later in the show, another young woman is waiting at a cafe for the love of her life to appear. Her waiter, a young man we've come to know as a man trapped in a pattern of loneliness, asks her when her lover is expected. She answers, "Either fifteen minutes or five years." Finally understanding that there is no specific man on his way, he takes his chance and breaks his pattern to declare himself as the lover she's been waiting for. Happily, they embrace and kiss. It's a sweet and deeply felt victory for love.

More often, however, Mee's contemplation of romantic love takes us down unexpected alleys, such as when we witness a professor leading a group of students on a comic tour of his love life, showing them where he received his first kiss, the place where he was dumped for the first time, where he had sex with his future wife, and finally where he had his first encounter with a man. There is also an art class where we see a naked man and woman in a series of sensual poses, and a scene where we meet two lesbians in a quarrel about how their love life failed. There is even a mock Project Runway moment where the costumes become more and more outrageous as we see the variety of people strutting their need to be seen, desired, and loved.

Director Kim Weild, the true star of this production, has taken a page out of Baz Luhrman's book of directing to give us a visual hurricane of images. Set designer Brian H. Scott uses the expansive size of the Ohio's Theatre's playing space to create a fluid stage that simply pours forth with a variety of perfectly realized planes in which the action transpires. Those spaces are exceptionally well-lit with color and shadow by lighting designer Charles Foster. And rarely does a cast get so many exotic, amusing, and sexy costumes to wear as those designed by Lisa Renee Jordan.

The large, fully committed cast -- who act, dance, kiss, and pet heterosexually and homosexually -- should be commended for their work; but special mention for their exceptional performances should go to Kyle Knauf, Khris Lewin, and Jessica Green.