Monday, August 3, 2009

Put My Finger In Your Mouth

The Right Brain Project's Put My Finger In Your Mouth is billed as a contemporary fairy tale. Collaboraction's Sketchbook '09 was themed the New American Fable. House's Rose and The Rime carried the subtitle "An Original Midwestern Fairy Tale". I missed out on both of the latter, which I'm starting to regret as I sit down to write this, as a little compare and contrast would be nice. The current day fascination with the fairy tale makes perfect sense; the generation of theatre makers just starting to hit full stride is the same that grew up in the Jim Henson era, the 80's children's fantasy smorgasboard that brought us Labyrinth, Legend, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, etc., etc., etc. But, if it's not children's theatre (which I understand some might peg Rose & The Rime as), what does the adult extension of these tropes look like? With Put My Finger In Your Mouth, playwright Bob Fisher and director Nathan Robbel make a compelling case for the exploitation film as contemporary fairy tale...

Or rather, that's where they end up once they get comfortable with the idea. The show starts with a first act mother-daughter Lifetime drug drama (a term requiring two footnotes: a) I'm aware that this is actually a tale of two sisters, but fails to read as such, for better and worse, until the final few minutes, largely because of the combination underwritten and overdirected morality representative Turtle character, and b) and this may be the first and last time I ever say this: I'm evoking the Lifetime Channel as a compliment), beginning with a sexy plunge into clubkid culture, hanging over scenes of changing home life, and simmering into a picturesque downward spiral. As a whole it could use a little more energy -- the climactic club scene shows the full potential on tap here, peaking with a unexplainably beautiful spectral dance moment between Birdy and Snailman to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" that calls up both the Lifetime movie first act, with its subtle, but not too, symbolism, and the more fairy tale-esque second act, with a surreal period feeling that parallels the ballroom sequence in Labyrinth -- and a LOT more volume, especially in the club scenes, but it's a satisfying bit of (ever so melo-)drama that had me curious and a little worried as to how it was going to reconcile itself.

What I wasn't expecting after the short intermission was full on over-the-top Drugsploitation. And I don't know that the show was necessarily expecting it, either, because the top of act two had me hit the ground stumbling. There are a couple of hard, hard tonal shifts here; the swing from addiction drama to save the day action is a big un', and the introduction of the villainous plot in a Soylent Green cum James Bond villain monologue is hampered both by Emily Mark's overuse of the Villain Voice (read: slow, booming, and without any real sense of purpose beyond "I'm the bad guy") and the fact that it leaves the Snailman standing out as the sole undeniably otherworldy factor in a show that is otherwise tremendously absurd, but abstractly so. But I'm wasting far too much space on the negative, because, once it gets past a few ground gears, the second act bursts with lifeblood -- the fight scenes are fast, furious and proudly sloppy; the dialogue is studded with one-liners each inducing a large groan or guffaw than the last; the emotions are ridiculously high and defiantly manipulative; and the humor is just plain silly. And I laughed my ass off and had a brilliant time.

As I mentioned, it's a very strong case for Exploitation film as the modern equivalent of the fairy tale, which I think I may take a second post to explore further with some Finger specifics next week. I want more time to play connect the dots with some thoughts. Until then, if the genre is of any interest of you I do suggest you check Finger out -- it's oddly stitched together, no doubt, but I know there are plenty of you out there that don't necessarily consider that a bad thing. Nor should you.


Hey, buy these tickets. Now.

I just had one of the easiest tech weekends of my life for The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Lights, music, props, and set are all mostly in place and costumes are coming tonight. And every bit of it looks and sounds amazing -- almost unnervingly so! For reals, yo, you're gonna wanna check this puppy out.


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