Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RECAP: Raw Onion: America Speaks Out at L'Etage, 5/25

Just off of South Street above a French restaurant last Sunday, an absurdist theater group performed over a dozen short monologues with titles such as "I'm Not A Wino: I'm A 'Why-Yes'", "I Can Beat The Price You're Paying For Sperm" and "I Refuse To Let Some Beached Whale Ruin Our Family Outing". The group was the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium and the show, "Raw Onion: America Speaks Out", consisted of characters acting out columns from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source.

Often The Onion's community voices columns revel in the raw and unadultered language with which the authors speak about what they want or feel. The pieces find humor in taking away the politeness and indirectness with which people act and speak. This is a device that can be seen elsewhere in comedy and is displayed well in pieces such as "Act Now To Take Advantage of My Lowered Standards" and "Hi, I Just Happened To Be In The Neighborhood And Horny". The language is so coarse and direct that it often reaches into absurdism, like in Kurt Beckman's (played by RJ White) "I Fucked My Way Into This Mess, And I'll Fuck My Way Out", which is exactly what the Consortium was hoping for.

Looking back on the original columns now, I can see that these performances definitely brought out an additional level of humor that can't be experienced on the page. Tony Lawton's performance as a pompous and theatrical John Kluivert in "My Lady Has a Beautiful Anus" was dead-on and Liam Castellan's choice to play Bill Brodhagen [right] in "You Will Suffer Humiliation When The Sports Team From My Area Defeats The Sports Team From Your Area" as a early 20th century spectator really brought out the essence of the premise. Jane Moore, an older actress, played a sweet and ultimately innocent Eugenia Korner in "I'm Sorry Jesus" and Billy Rayhill was a frustrated and irate door-to-door salesman in "Why Can't I Sell Any Of These Fucking Bibles?". Another highlight was Sonja Robson's portrayal of Trudy Schiff, a housewife that gradually spirals into madness and obsession in "I've Got A New Soup That Will Knock Campbell's On Its Ass".

The two shows were a fundraiser for the IRC, a two-year old non-profit group that will put on "A Streetcar Named Durang: Two Burlesques and a Nightmare", a parody of the famous playwrights Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard, during the upcoming Fringe Festival. The Onion was very open to the Consortium's use of their material with the caveat that nothing could be changed. "I was prepared to pay the rights for the material," said artistic director Tina Brock, "but they were so generous, they said 'no, just do it', so we did."

The show was a change of pace for the Consortium, which usually produces absurdist plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Christopher Durang, Edward Albee, and Eugene Ionesco that are usually "pretty funny on some level but also very tragic, so it's dual sides of the same coin." Brock was concerned that the f-bombs and vulgarity of the monologues may turn off the group's followers. "Sex doesn't even come up in those [other] plays, it's all metaphysical and existential quandaries," but judging from the laughter in the crowd, it seemed like everyone got it.


Anonymous said...

Nice recap! Tina's a friend of mine so I am glad it was a success.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this sounds awesome. If I was home, I'd be all over this. Maybe they'll have a repeat performance sometime?

Tony Lawton is great.

- Gregg

Anonymous said...

"Early 20th century?" I wear that suit all the time... :o)

Thanks for writing! We all had great fun putting that up for the good people of Philadelphia. And the chocolate-covered onion in the last photo was homemade, by the way. 'Cuz that's how we roll...

~Liam Castellan, a.k.a. Bill Brodhagen

karl said...

I would have loved to have seen that!