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A Wilde imagination

Actors grasp the hauntingly seductive tale of 'Salome' at Luna Playhouse.

January 12, 2011|By James Famera
(Rico Mejia )

For those who have ever taken a high school literature class (and I'm assuming that most of you have) you've probably heard the name Oscar Wilde. In his lifetime, Wilde was known for his controversial plays and novels, such as "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray," and lived a flamboyant lifestyle that would ultimately land him in jail and cause him to die broke at the age of 46.

The Luna Playhouse, which is staging Wilde's "Salome" until Jan. 23, might not have the gigantic stage and state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment of some of the larger playhouses. But what they lack in the technical department, they make up for in casting. Thanks to the superb performances from Laura Cotenescu as Salome and Kevin Vavasseur as Herod, "Salome" was one of the most emotionally engaging plays I've seen in a while.

Unlike the societal comedies Wilde was known for, Salome is a tragedy and tells the biblical story of the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee. Salome is a virgin, yet has a trance-like effect over men that leaves most of them, even her own stepfather, doting. When a drunken Herod requests Salome to dance for him, she agrees on the condition that Herod gives her whatever she desires. "Give me the head of Jokanaan," Salome demands.

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Jokanaan is John the Baptist, a prisoner of Herod's, whose head Salome has grown strangely fond of. Herod initially declares he will never do such a thing. But alas, he is but a man, and it would appear that Salome is more than just a woman. He ultimately buckles and gives his temptress of a stepdaughter Jokanaan's severed head, albeit to the displeasure of everyone around her.

In her actor's bio, Cotenescu noted how Salome "brought out the most of my creativity" and called it a "most interesting and beautiful journey that I will like to keep on doing for years and years and years." Well, Los Angeles could only be so lucky, because for 90 minutes Cotenescu not only embodied the seductive power of Salome, she became it.

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