Charles L. Mee plants a sloppy kiss on the City of Lights in Fêtes de la Nuit. Mee, who portrayed 1890s Paris in Belle Époque, returns to that city a century later in a manner still predictably sex-obsessed—though, unlike the earlier piece, this new one includes a scene set in a McDonald’s. Vive le Big Mac! When not munching pommes frites, most of director Kim Weild’s 17-member cast, which features several deaf actors, adopt dubious French accents and discuss orgasmic childbirth, open-air couplings, lesbian clinches, sadomasochistic rituals, etc. The wordless scenes are, if anything, more libidinous, as when a life-drawing class takes a turn toward the Kama Sutra, or when a lingerie-clad lady eats a croissant in a way suggesting French women do get fat—and very aroused by pastry.
As often happens in Mee’s plays, these nonverbal scenes prove more interesting than the monologues and dialogue, much of it assembled from found text. Weild doesn’t have the budget or resources of some of Mee’s frequent collaborators, like Les Waters or Martha Clarke, but she attempts visual richness with limited means. There’s an overreliance on projections and perhaps too much full and partial nudity, but a stage full of dancers tangoing under alluring red lighting and an absurdist fashion show both impress.
Ultimately, the play seems rather unseductive. The form is diffuse, the jokes unhumorous, and the different sections don’t communicate very well with one another. As one character says, in a speech that seems cribbed from Derrida, “Even today, the notion of a structure lacking any center represents the unthinkable itself.” Oh, it’s thinkable, all right, but not very dramatic. C’est la Mee. Alexis Soloski