Produced on a shoestring budget in an intimate space at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, the performance piece, Chimpskin is an exemplar of what the Hollywood Fringe Festival is all about, that is to say, a bold experimental, non-commercial show that can be seen nowhere else. With mostly mimed props, an old-fashioned portable record player, and a set that consists of some black rehearsal boxes and a long, thick piece of furry rope, five actors and one wonderful musician tell the compelling story of Lucy, a chimpanzee raised in the home of a psycho-therapist and his wife as if she were a human child. Based on a true story, for this telling, she grows up alongside the scientist’s own child, a boy.
As Lucy, Damla Coskun is astonishing, expressing profound emotions with the authentic, stylized movement of our closest primate relative, the chimpanzee. The entire supporting cast—Christian Gnecco-Quintero, Rebekah O’Kelley, Pablo Castelblanco and Frannie Morrison—at one point or another also become apes, playing with enthusiastic, boundless energy.
As in the real life story, Lucy, who has learned to dress herself, brush her teeth, sit at table and eat with silverware, communicate with American Sign Language, smoke cigarettes, drink gin and pleasure herself with a girlie magazine, eventually becomes too large and unmanageable to live with. She is sent to a rehabilitation center in Africa.
At certain points in the performance, Nathan Nonhof appears with a long, large didgeridoo, delivering the signature sounds with deep, profound resonance that is mysterious, fascinating and somewhat unsettling. It is thrilling to hear these sounds performed at close proximity, for me, literally within arms reach.
Under the aegis of The Puckwit Gang, the show, inspired by the life of Lucy Temerlin, is conceived and directed by Ben Landmesser, with the cast credited as co-creators.
See this remarkable show before it is gone. Two more performances remain—tonight at 8:30pm, and Friday, June 23, at 10:30pm at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place in Los Angeles.