Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Last Dance At Perino's

Maria soaks in the Perino's vibe at one of the legendary Hollywood haunt's booths

Maria and I caught the closing performance Sunday night of the Collage Dance Theatre's "A Hunger Artist," which also doubled as the swan song for the soon-to-be demolished Perino's restaurant.

It was our second time at a Collage show; we'd attended the troupe's performance ("Sleeping with the Ambassador") at the endangered Ambassador Hotel last summer. Like then, our main goal is to check out classic Los Angeles locales before they're sadly demolished... and the Perino's visit had an even more urgent tone to it: The building will be torn down very soon in favor of apartments. Egad.

(Adding insult to injury, Carey + Kutay Development Group -- which is overseeing the Perino's demolition and construction of the future apartment complex -- continues to capitalize on the mystique and lore of Perino's. Carey + Kutay was a sponsor of the Collage event, and owns the website perinos.net -- which touts the site's history and its importance in Hollywood culture, while in the same breath announces its destruction and auction of remaining assets.)

Collage artistic director Heidi Duckler conceived and created the dance program along with Merridawn Duckler. The contemporary dance troupe utilized Perino's ballroom, bar, dining room and kitchen to interpret Franz Kafka's "A Hunger Artist."

Like the Ambassador show, Collage also incorporated some acting and singing in the mix, particularly in the dining room, where the performers rotated from table to table -- some twisting and turning on chairs, others performing magic tricks and still others, in character, interacting with the crowd. It was all meant to tell Kafka's story of an artist who decides to fast and ultimately doesn't stop -- because he never found anything he wanted to eat.

The show had its moments -- and the athletic abilities of several dancers were nothing short of awe-inspiring. Think dance with acrobatics thrown in.

But ultimately, it was a much smaller event than the Ambassador show. Collage stuck to just four rooms -- whereas, at the Ambassador, the audience saw at least seven different performances in varied locations.

Obviously, Perino's is no match for the expanse of the Ambassador. But "A Hunger Artist" could have climbed upstairs, where a sitting room and powder area would have added one more canvas to the "Hunger Artist" pallette.

Nonetheless, the show had its moments -- we were particularly impressed by the athletic moves of Marissa Labog, while John Pleshette was enjoyable as the Perino's maitre'd. Overall, the cast was top-notch and the dancers amazing.

Unfortunately, it's too late to save Perino's. But it's not too late to save the Ambassador. We sat in a booth next to a member of the Los Angeles Conservancy, who urged us to write letters to the LAUSD school board urging them to save the old hotel. This next month or two is critical; go to the L.A. Conservancy website for more info.

Check out pics from our night at Perino's starting here.


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