If you're a lifelong Twin Peaks fan, there's a good chance the first thing you'll notice when walking into theater collective The Antidote’s Red Lodge, Montana is the rolled-up red curtains. When you see them—or really, whenever you see red curtains at all—you're going to be reminded of the Black Lodge, also known as the "Red Room,” the iconic dream room from David Lynch and Mark Frost's classic TV series.
Red Lodge, Montana, debuting as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, is an elaborate homage to the iconography and thematic elements of Twin Peaks, and other works by Lynch. It's got all that, plus a great deal more overtly queer sexuality than what's in the actual Twin Peaks.
There's pie, coffee, an FBI agent, mysterious deaths, shifting identities and dimensions, and most of all, that ever-present Lynch theme of classical Americana collapsing into nightmare, as most notably depicted in the director's Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (2001), in addition to Twin Peaks. There's even a tribute to that strange moment in Twin Peaks: The Return when the camera stayed for more than five minutes on a character as he swept the Roadhouse at the end of the night.
A new Philly setting
David Lynch famously lived in Philadelphia for a time when he was young, and the city had such an imprint on his unique visual style that we’ve got "the Eraserhood” (AKA Callowhill, the Loft District, or North Chinatown), a neighborhood that's unofficially named for him.
Red Lodge, Montana isn't located there, but rather in the basement of South Philly's Bok Building, a former school, in what was once the girls’ locker room. It's a counterintuitive choice for a performance space, to say the least, but it's one that works. One entrance to the building took patrons upstairs to the trendy Bok Bar, while around the corner another took them downstairs to the Red Lodge show. There's an apt metaphor in there somewhere.
Love, demons, song-and-dance
The first third or so of the show is set in one room—the one with the curtains— before the audience is led into a second room, where different tableaus play out in different parts of the room. For this part, credit goes to director Michael Osinski and lighting designer Sydney Norris for the downright spooky look of some unique scenes. The one that's likely to have audiences talking is between two male actors: Josh Hitchens and Geremy Webne-Behrman. One of them fully nude. It’s hard to describe—part love scene and part extra-dimensional battle over demonic possession.
Of the capable cast, Amanda Schoonover stands out, conveying great emotional depth even when reacting to other actors, along with Kelly McCaughan, who's funny in one scene and engaging in a wonderful, very Lynchian song-and-dance number in the next.
There's also an element of a show-within-the-show, with the rather of-the-moment conceit that the director is attempting to talk a reluctant performer into going through with an unsafe stunt. There's even a moment of "technical difficulties" in which the music is said not to be working—something that I'm still not entirely sure was part of the show or not.
Anyone with even a small appreciation for the work of David Lynch will like Red Lodge, Montana, but even if you're not a fan, you'll likely find enough to enjoy.
What, When, Where
Red Lodge, Montana. Directed by Michael Osinski. Through September 15 at the Bok Building, 1901 S 9th St, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.
This performance requires audience members to stand and travel through the space, and the venue is not ADA-compliant.