Performance diary: 666

May 1, 2010

April 30 — 666, the Spanish comic spectacle at the Minetta Lane Theatre, wasn’t on my radar at all until I read the review in the New Yorker’s listings, which piqued my pervy curiosity:

“The four very funny and talented comedians who comprise the Spanish comedy theatre troupe Yllana (and who created this show) act out, Charlie Chaplin-style, what goes on in a maximum-security prison where they are all awaiting execution. Three perverted criminals (Fidel Fernandez, Joseph Michael O’Curneen, and Juan Ramos Toro) get stabbed, slashed, shot, gassed, electrocuted, beheaded, and splashed with pee—while intermittently raping and sodomizing their innocent cellmate (the especially gifted Raul Cano)—and seem to enjoy every minute of it. Because they don’t speak, the actors prod the audience into making certain sound effects to go along with the tasteless antics, and they even bring a young female audience member onstage—what Cano showers her with, once he dies and comes back as a devil wearing nothing but a two-foot-long penis, is a lot more than attention. The elegance and brilliance of the pantomime save this show, directed by David Ottone, from being too offensive to sit through.”

Friends, don’t make the mistake I made of going to see this witless clown show. Even at 80 minutes, it’s a long series of juvenile sketches vamping until they get to the big finale, which involves all four guys running around the stage and through the audience with long comic phalli out of an Aristophanes play. It’s not despicable — the performers are reasonably talented, and the redhead is pretty damned cute, and they are attempting to play with theatricality, focusing on the peculiar task of getting the audience to make noise, any noise — but it’s really dumb. It reminded me of Puppetry of the Penis, which lured many an otherwise theater-savvy gay guy into the theater for what turned out to be a puerile cabaret act best suited for tanked-up bachelorettes. I was embarrassed because I dragged five friends to see the show with me (see below)…but the lesbians in our group actually enjoyed the show more than I did, so go figure. In any case, we had fun yakking over dinner down the street at Marinella afterwards — three gay American guys and three foreign-born gay gals (one Mexican, one Brazilian, one Norwegian).

Andy, Rosie, Marta, David, and Judy

May 1 — Much better use of time and energy was the beautiful, engrossing Otto Dix show at the Neue Galerie. An artist who got his start drawing fantastically graphic scenes of war during his Army service in World War I (and whose career ended with Hitler’s denunciation of “degenerate art”), Dix wandered freely back and forth between portraiture and caricature, fine art and social commentary. You’ve probably seen images of his without knowing it. A lot of them are grotesque, even repulsive — I asked Andy to show me which was his favorite, and the concept stymied him because the work isn’t exactly easy to like — but compelling. (My favorite was the unusually delicate “Elegant Passerby,” what looks like a cloud of person on the street that turns out to be a veiled woman holding a small dog with the face of an owl.) Dix’s depictions of war, for instance, are everything that we’re NOT allowed to see about the war our country is conducting in Iraq right now: up-close, unsanitized, completely unromantic and upsetting. The portraits are fascinating both for the emotion that leaps out of them but also for sheer accomplishment. I liked getting right up close to the famous painting, below, of Anita Berber (this dame didn’t live to see 30, but doesn’t she look twice that?) and seeing that it was made with oil and tempera on plywood. And then of course any visit to the Neue Gallerie is an opportunity to stop at the elegant Cafe Sabarsky for sachertorte and/or a Gruner Vertliner.

One Response to “Performance diary: 666”

  1. Steve V. Says:

    As bad as it sounds, 666 really makes me glad to be a New Yorker.
    This is one of only a tiny number of cities on the North American Continent where foreign theater is ever presented by the people who created it.

    I’m not referring here to English imports, though frankly, even those are relatively rare, compared to all that we don’t get to see. Not all of what we don’t see is wonderful, of course, but some of it is, and I wish we had more frequent opportunities to discover what’s being done in Britain and other English-speaking countries. So say nothing of the rest of the world.

    Even sadder and more surprising is that, outside of New York
    City (and I should probably say, outside of Manhattan) foreign films, including the British, are almost impossible to find in American movie theaters. Most Americans who want to see them have
    to resort to Netflix, or buy them, say, on Amazon.com.

    Returning to theater, some of the best productions that I’ve ever seen in New York have been imports from Europe, usually through the auspices of Lincoln Center, during their summer festival of imported music and drama. I can’t wait for this year’s brochure to arrive, to see what delights are in store for us.

    And while we’re at it, let’s not forget La MaMa E.T.C. The great Ellen Stewart knows that not all good theater comes from English-Speaking, or even European-language countries.

    So, Viva 666! It may be a dud and a disappointment, in actual fact, but at least it’s a sign that not all theater is created along a narrow corridor that extends from the La Jolla Playhouse in California to the Royal National Theatre in London.


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