Review: ‘Lasso of Truth’ at Marin Theatre Company (***1/2)

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: ***1/2)

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

(“Lasso of Truth” plays at Marin Theatre Center through March 16, 2014.)

The definition of “lasso”, Wikipedia helpfully informs us, is “a loop of rope designed as a restraint to be thrown around a target and tightened when pulled.” It is also a verb: to lasso something is to capture and restrain it.

In tackling the complex story of William Marston, the University professor and creator of the lie detector as well as the comic character Wonder Woman, playwright Crason Kreitzer sets out to lasso the truth in this wonderfully inventive world premiere.

Of course, the term “lasso of truth” was created by Marston. It is Wonder Woman’s weapon in the comic book, forcing anyone it captures to tell the truth. It is, of course, a metaphor for Marston’s lie detecting machine.

Things get steamy between The Amazon (Liz Sklar) and The Wife (Jessa Brie Moreno) in Marin Theatre Company's world premiere production  of Carson Kreitzer's "Lasso of Truth". Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.
Things get steamy between The Amazon (Liz Sklar) and The Wife (Jessa Brie Moreno) in Marin Theatre Company’s world premiere production of Carson Kreitzer’s “Lasso of Truth”. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.

The story is complex and raises many questions about the truth: Was Wonder Woman a figure of soft core pornography or a feminine icon? Was Marston’s lie detector machine a useless gadget or an indispensable courtroom tool? Was Marston a feminist visionary or simply a creepy bondage perv?

Um, bondage perv? Be patient, we’ll get there.

Playwright Kreitzer got the idea for this play while researching the lie detector. When she found out about William Marston and Wonder Woman and his bondage fetishism she knew she’d found a great story. She was right.

“Lasso of Truth” is, first of all, great fun. Let’s begin with Annie Smart’s delightful set which utilizes scrims and projections to create the feel of comic book panels. The effect is helped, immeasurably, by Jim French’s lighting design, Callie Floor’s costumes, and, especially, Kwame Braun’s video design and Jacob Stoltz’s graphics. This show is wonderful eye candy.

But it is not merely a designer’s play: the script and the acting are excellent, too.

Kreitzer sets out to tell multiple stories: the history of the lie detector, the development of Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, the somewhat kinky poly-amorous marriage of Marston, and the adventures of a younger woman (“the Girl”) as she seeks to purchase an original 1st issue of a comic featuring Wonder Woman from a nerdish, overwhelmed comic book entrepreneur. There is also a delicious cameo portrayal of feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

The themes are complex: what is strength and weakness? is bondage play and polyamory empowering or humiliating? can the truth be known? what should we make of ambivalent heroes and heroines? what is the role of popular art in moving our culture?

All of this is great  fun, performed with comic brio by a highly skilled cast.

Audiences should be warned (or enticed) with the knowledge that the bondage scenes between Marston and his two lady loves (and the two lady loves on their own) are as explicit as can be imagined, short of crossing the line into actual pornography. Plenty of audience members will be shifting in their seats.

This world premiere is nothing if not a highly original and stimulating entertainment.

For further information, click here.

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“The Lasso of Truth” by Carson Kreitzer, world premiere production by Marin Theatre Company. Director: Jasson Minadakis. Scenic Designer: Annie Smart. Lighting Designer: Jim French. Costume Desinger: Callie Floor. Composer & Sound Designer: Cliff Caruthers. Video Designer: Kwame Braun. Graphic Designer: Jacob Stoltz. Properties Artisan: Seren Helday.

The Amazon: Liz Sklar. The Inventor: Nicholas Rose. The Girl: Lauren English. The Guy: John Riedlinger. The Wife: Jessa Brie Moreno.

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