Unhampered by Sanity

Here's a plot for you: Courtney Love meets the ghost of an avant-garde German baroness whose husband also shot himself

The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven died of gas inhalation on the floor of a Paris hotel room in 1927, with a personal history that outshone what anyone might have predicted when she was born, 53 years earlier, as Else Plötz. She fell in love with a German novelist and got dumped by him in Kentucky. She moved to Greenwich Village and started a career as a dada queen and poet who famously feuded with William Carlos Williams before women were quite allowed to do that in print. She married a German baron who later shot himself in the mouth. Art historian Robert Hughes called her “America's first punk,” so it seems natural for playwright Kerry Reid to imagine the advice Elsa might give to a woman like Courtney Love. Unhampered by Sanity shows a Love stand-in, Carlotta Monti, meeting the Baroness' ghost in a seedy Paris hotel room, shortly after the shotgun suicide of her “shithead” boyfriend. The advice is clever and sometimes wise. It's fun to watch Elsa's ghost, in a dress decorated with kitchen utensils, outdo her spiritual great-granddaughter as an anarchist (and a sharp wit), but most of the drama here relies on a generational understanding of Courtney Love. If you're too old to know who she is — or if you don't care — the play will be boring. Linda Ayres-Frederick does a charming job as the Baroness, with a lively, insolent German accent and a brisk manner with a dildo. “I know what I'm talking about when it comes to dead husbands,” she tells Carlotta, and Carlotta seems to learn a few things about honesty, art, and grief.

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