The Passion of Jim Morrison
Given half a chance a writer will keep refining their works until they get it perfect. Jim Morrison himself had multiple versions of poems that he was constantly working and reworking looking for the perfect version. Jay Jeff Jones’s “The Lizard King” is in its third iteration. “The Lizard King” has had three productions, one in London, one in Los Angeles and now one in Milwaukee. Jones has revised his script from the Los Angeles production for the Milwaukee production. Like Jim Morrison said “comparisons are a shortcut to thinking” and this version/vision of “The Lizard King” stands on its own. So, we’ll try not to take too many shortcuts.
The scene, Jim Morrison and Pam Courson are living in Paris during the last few days of Morrison’s life. Morrison, played by Maxwell Tomaszewski, is working on his poetry in between drinks, but he still can’t get away from his rock star persona playing to the concert that’s still going on in his head. Courson, Brittany Curran, wants Morrison to work on his poetry, but adds distraction in wanting Morrison to take her out and bringing home friends. Tom Baker, Coy Wentworth, shows up in flashback scenes of his relationship with Morrison and Courson, and the love triangle they formed from the early days of The Doors until Morrison’s and Courson’s departure to Paris. Along for the ride are Miami, Sarah Ann Mellstrom, a Warhol leftover who is trying to get Morrison to either sponsor a showing of her art, which happens to be sheets stained with her blood, or make a movie with her in it. Sid, Brian Miracle, shows up from L.A. Down to his last nickel, Sid is trying to get Morrison interested in making a movie of the screenplay he’s written about a rock star who exposes himself onstage.
Morrison’s and Courson’s existence drips in decadence, an almost Tennesse Williams gothic feel to it. But there is an innocence to their decadence. Maybe this Jim Morrison and Pam Courson have attained Arthur Rimbaud’s goal of “…he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences…”? In the alchemy of dissipation they have attained the unknown, but have lost the understanding of their visions, and in Morrison’s case himself.
More impressionistic than the Los Angeles production of the play, the narrative scenes are almost blackouts of scenes from Morrison’s life, fictionalized with flashbacks to Los Angeles which are more biographical, then separated by interludes of poetry in which Jones more than ably mimics the feel and tone of Morrison’s poetry.
The cast is remarkably well chosen for their parts. Tomaszewski as Morrison is the center of the play. Tomaszewski, while at moments shows flashes of Morrison, his take on the character is more The Christ and makes “The Lizard King” a passion play (you have to remember the original meaning of passion is “to suffer”) of Jim Morrison. Whether this is Tomaszewski’s own take on the character, or director Ken Morgan’s, or even if its Jones’s revised vision, this portrayal adds depth and gives the play some added nuance. Wentworth as Baker has his biggest scene when mocking Morrison’s beat generation influences. Wentworth’s soliloquy, a verbatim of Jack Kerouac’s “the mad ones” excerpt from “On The Road” gives the sardonic twist needed, along with some fire. After Tomaszewski’s Morrison, Curran’s Pam Courson is the second pillar of “The Lizard King” and Courson is as decadent as Morrison, but hers arises more from boredom than philosophy (as Morrison’s was). Courson’s character usually gets short shrift in dramatic presentations, but Jones’s script doesn’t fall into this trap. Curran adds an innocence to a character that is hanging on by her fingernails to this side of madness. In an especially memorable scene Curran gives a quiet power that peels away a layer of Courson’s character. Mellstrom’s and Miracle’s characters, which at first feel a bit extraneous, are given their moments of revelation. They both imbue their characters with a poignancy that leads the audience to an understanding of them.
If you’re looking for a play with some nuance and insight not only into Morrison’s and Courson’s relationship but human natures at the extreme, “The Lizard King” is a worthy experience. If you can make a short trip to Milwaukee, I’d check this play out. If you know a Doors fan, or someone looking for an interesting and different experience “The Lizard King” runs this weekend Friday through Sunday with a Saturday matinee as well as an evening performance, then another run September 22 through September 27. More information is available at KACM Theatrical Productions and tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets.