I would never have known about this fun, ridiculous show if it hadn’t been for a friend of mine, who for internet security’s sake I will call AH. She’s in the show, which just got extended through December.
As you could guess, the play is a variation on the Rapunzel story, but it is a much more adult, gross-out, sexualized version of the story, which makes it hilarious and fun (although I wouldn’t take anyone under 16 to go see it). The story gives equal weight to the main plot points of the fairy tale — I had totally forgotten about the beginning, where Rapunzel’s birth parents steal some of the herb, Sweet Rapunzel, out of the witch’s garden next door. The parents are introduced in a very Punch and Judy, abusive way, with perfect comic timing and hilarious, over the top charicatures. They quickly become drug addicts after stealing this “herb”, needing more and more to fill their cravings until the witch convinced them it would be a GOOD idea to give up their unborn baby girl (which they don’t particularly want to have anyway) to her (we think it’s a her?) to raise. Meanwhile, two members of the rock/porn star elite buy some *fake* sweet rapunzel, called Rampien, to have their own baby boy who, in the grand tradition of shock, punk, and glam rock, is born onstage (as the rocker chick says, “Who the fuck wouldn’t want to come into the world like that?!”). From there, we’re shown a hyperactive 12 year old girl locked in a tower just for menstruating for the first time, the extent of the witch’s emotional abuse, teenage lust and all it’s pitfalls (particularly broken condoms), and finally, the rescue of one incredibly dumb Rapunzel by her incredibly dumb prince Rampien Champion.
There’s lots of punching and fighting, screaming and kicking, goo and fake blood and potty humor and uncomfortable sexual scenarios. It’s one of the most fun shows I’ve seen this year — but I would caution that it’s only for those who like dark comedies. Obviously.
The thing I find interesting about this — that’s right, here comes the nerdiness — is that it’s a tiny, no-budget show in a tiny, barely-maintained theatre in a bar (I assume the main draw is gross-out humor + alcohol). It’s in the grand tradition of other forms of hugely popular American theatre, like vaudeville and cabaret acts. It reminded me that, way back before the colonies split from Jolly Olde England, the settlers had readings of plays in their homes, but there were not yet theatre troupes as there were in England (and, some colonies had strict Puritan rules against public gatherings like theatre, for fear of the attendant immorality). But performing for each other in an intimate venue has a long tradition in American history. It makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason large theatres nowadays continue to lose business, while low-brow small shows like this play to more and more sold out audiences. If all theatre in the country were like this, would we get sick of it? Would we demand higher production values? Does this only work because of it’s contrast with often lackluster and far-too-expensive productions at big theatres? Or, is it the attitude of people my age vs. people my parents’ age? Is this a sign that our Victorian values are finally fading away?
I want to answer “yes” to all these questions, so read them as slightly rhetorical. At the same time, I’m just not sure, which is why I phrased them as questions and not statements. I’d like to think that this ridiculous idea of “high-brow” vs “low-brow” is finally going away, as if going to see a live performance of a particular variety (like Shakespeare, Broadway, or opera) somehow makes you a more “cultured” person. You don’t become cultured by simple osmosis. You become cultured by going to see these things AND learning to talk about them in an intelligent way. So, if you can talk intelligently about fart jokes and their relevance to modern society, shouldn’t you be considered a cultured person? Or are you then more of a Buzz Kill?
Hard to say. What I can say is that I personally love the high energy actors and the amazing timing of these shows. I love the dedication companies put into creating them. If it takes alcohol to keep an audience flowing in, then the only problem I forsee with that is people getting home afterwards, and that would be a problem regardless of whether or not they went to see a show. I wish that larger companies would learn a thing or two from these smaller groups, as far as energy and creativity and story-telling. And, it makes me happy to see that theatre is not dead in my homeland as we theatre types often fear it is; it’s alive and well, but right now it’s living an extended adolescence, and shows no signs of growing up and turning into the zombies that inhabit the large theatres.