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Showing posts from October, 2018

The Resistable Rise of JR Brinkley

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photo by Untitled Theater Company No. 61
JR Brinkley was a Kansas doctor - faux doctor, actually - in the 1920’s who gained fame with a cure for erectile dysfunction: implanting goat testicles in his patients. He was so celebrated that he ran for governor and won the popular vote, but his opponent won the election on a technicality, praise God (votes misspelling his name were discarded). He was ultimately exposed, discredited and convicted of the obvious crimes. An American success story indeed.
Edward Einhorn has based his play The Resistable Rise of JR Brinkley on this unlikely biography, and it’s been produced by The Untitled Theater Company No. 61 as part of FringeNYC. It’s a terrific production. Mr. Einhorn, who himself directs, employs a cast of five actors/musicians on a nearly bare stage with a backdrop. Included in the show are country songs - real country songs, bluegrass maybe - that Mr. Einhorn has revised from authentic tunes with new lyrics, making the show a ballad opera.…

Ruffles, or a Progression of Rakes

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photo by Mike Cantarella
The theater of the absurd is alive and well, thank you. I don’t use the term in the loose sense, as applied randomly to nearly everything written after World War Two that’s not realism. I use it in the strict sense, le théâtre de dérision, in which nonsense is baked into the form of the play as a philosophy.
I’m speaking of Normandy Sherwood’s play Ruffles, or a Progression of Rakes, recently produced by and at The Tank. The substance of this terrific play, such as it is, concerns a vaguely 18th-century dandy (Florian, played by Ean Sheehy) who scoops up a stable boy and makes him a sort of servant-cum-psychoslave. The young person (played by Bear Speigel) is made to wear ruffles around his neck - hence his new name.
Sometimes the script sounds like Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and there’s an allusion to Genet’s The Maids when Florian has Ruffles engage in some role-playing with a row of silent maid-servants watching. The period is inconsistent - there are 20th-ce…

The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus

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photo by Russ Rowland
The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus, produced by The Seeing Place Theater at The Paradise Factory, is yet another turn on the Faustus myth. It’s written by Brandon Walker, who also plays the title role, and it’s directed by Erin Cronican, who also plays Wagner and Mephistopheles.
The play opens with the 80-year-old Heinrich Faustus addressing his Wittenberg class (us). He storms off after some inexplicable student heckling. When he’s at his home desk we meet his assistant, Wagner. Wagner is transformed into Mephistopheles and the good doctor makes his famous pact (he chooses the “highlight package”, for impatient people). After a quick trip to the bathroom to appreciate himself (and to let Mr. Walker remove his make-up), he’s transformed to age 30, which he will remain for 24 years. Heinrich Faustus becomes Henry Faust, English writer (although the actual, unfortunate progenitor of the myth was named Johann Faust).
The plot centers on Faust’s ruining a young girl, (Gretchen…

Salome

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credit: Eileen Meny Photography
What a wonder Salome is! Oscar Wilde wrote it in French in 1891. His infamous crush, Lord Alfred Douglas, translated it into English, but Wilde was so dissatisfied with his work that, some critics tell us, he essentially translated it again. At any rate, the Lord Chamberlin suppressed the London production (which would have starred Sarah Bernhardt) and the play premiered in France.
It’s unabashedly hyperbolic, deliberately overwritten, as extravagant and overblown as dramatic prose can be. Wilde tells us everything six times. What style is this? It’s aestheticism - aka decadence. It represents the intersect of melodrama and exoticism. The script is as heavy as a fruitcake and great fun as well, and I don’t believe Wilde was entirely serious.
The reader will be familiar with the Biblical story: Herod tells his step-daughter, Salome, that if she’ll dance for him, he’ll give her anything she asks for. She dances the Dance of the Seven Veils, and asks for the …