The gruesome unsolved murder and dismemberment of the actress Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia, has long been a spot of tarnish on the glitter of “Tinsletown.” Over the past seven decades, numerous books have been written and films have been made, which have all posed new theories on the case. David J, founding member and bassist for the iconic punk band Bauhaus, is posing his own theory on the identity of the Black Dahlia murderer in his new play, The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse.
The musician and playwright previously presented “Silver for Gold: The Odyssey of Edie Sedgewick”, the story of the Warhol muse, to the Los Angeles theatre community in 2008 to critical acclaim. David’s latest play was inspired by the story of artist Madi Comfort, who had been a jazz chanteuse and actress in the 1940’s and 50’s. She is best known from her role as the jazz singer in the 1950’s film noir classic, “Kiss Me Deadly.”
On her deathbed in 2003, Madi Comfort revealed the identity of the Elizabeth Short’s killer, letting go of a heavy secret before she died. She had feared so much for her own safety that she held her tongue for nearly seventy years. Madi’s paramour, George Hodel, had been the prime suspect in the original Black Dahlia investigation. This story was the catalyst needed for David J to revisit a previously written song cycle and create The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse.
“With this production we are revisiting the ‘Black Dahlia’ song cycle that was originally composed for the independent feature film, ‘The Devil’s Muse’ directed by Ramzi Abed,” explains David J, “In this new theatrical staging, I am reuniting with my original musical collaborator, Ego Plum. Here the music works as a framework around which another related story is interwoven.
The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse focuses on the police interrogation of Madi Comfort by Lieutenant Jemison. David found his own muse in NAACP Award-winning actress Daniele Watts, who will be playing the role of Madi Comfort, with special appearances by Obie Award-winner Tracey Leigh in the role throughout the run. Douglas Dickerman will play Lieutenant Frank Jemison. With live music performed by David J, Ego Plum and Ysanne Spevack (Smashing Pumpkins), The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse will also feature world-renowned Butoh performer Vangeline as the ghost of Elizabeth Short.
“There is a certain decadence to Los Angeles,” David has said of his interest in the darker side of the city, and drawing inspirations from its past. The culmination of music, theatre and stylistic performance in The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse, which explores one of the Los Angeles’ darkest mysteries, reflects that decadence.
The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse premieres at the Bootleg Theater on Thursday, September 8 at 7:30 PM. The show will play Thursday through Saturday through its closing performance on Saturday, October 1. Tickets are $25, with $18 discount tickets for students and seniors, which can be purchased through the Bootleg Theater website at www.bootlegtheater.org.