Time Travel Through Tinseltown

From l, Odalys Nanin and Stephanie Ann Saunders in “Lavender Love”, playing now at Macha Theatre.

The world premiere of Lavender Love at the Macha Theatre is a time travel extravaganza from present day, 2011, to glamorous Hollywood of yesteryear, the 1920s, where Rudolph Valentino, an iconic figure, appears larger than life, on stage, amidst love triangles, tango dances and celebrity “lavender marriages” of convenience. This play attempts to go back to a supposedly simpler, gentler time in Tinseltown; however, not all is as it appears, as the conceit unfolds involving the tangled web of Valentino (Kristian Steel); his lover Paul Ivano (Drew Hinckley); Madame Alla Nazimova (Odalys Nanin); and Natasha Rambova (Stephanie Ann Saunders).

The suspense is superb, complete with elaborate, authentic period wardrobe and set design.

One gets an intimate glimpse into the life of Valentino, the Italian pop icon, as he dabbled in acting, operettas and dance, quite the avant garde Renaissance man. As he took residence at the historic Alexandria Hotel, Valentino worked on the Alla Nazimova film, Camille, playing her love interest, all the while harboring a secret that could have jeopardized his career. This fabulous screen idol had many a female admirer (and males as well). “Lavender marriage” was the term of the day for a marriage as a front to obscure bisexual tendencies, such as Valentino’s.

Award winning playwright Odalys Nanin takes upon the ultimate challenge of presenting an excellent, eccentric cast — ladies who busily buzzed among the lesbian circle of that era, including the dazzling Alla herself, of Camille and Salome notoriety. Valentino, the amour of both women and homosexual men, lived amidst the “hush-hush” policy of Hollywood, when his lifestyle was taboo — decades before the modern day gay rights movement and progressive attitude. Valentino was obsessively concerned about public slurs against his masculinity, in stark contrast to the grittier screen actors of the time, Bogart and Olivier. Lavender Love bravely brings to the limelight the inner secret love lives of cherished stars and starlets of a bygone era, for audiences in contemporary times, to appreciate and understand how it really was to live in their circumstances.

Lavender Love runs through June 18 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. at Macha Theatre located at 1107 N. Kings Rd. in West Hollywood. For more information, visit www.machatheatre.org.

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