Posts Tagged ‘harry kondoleon’

From the deep archives: Performance Diary 9/2/84

June 13, 2012

September 2 – Last night Stephen and I went to see Jeff Weiss at the Performing Garage. Harry Kondoleon joined us, along with Patricia Benoit and her German boyfriend Mark. I gave Harry a tape I’d just finished making for him with many songs he’d requested (Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life,” Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop,” “99 ½,” etc. – he ever so casually asked for things to be in a certain order, which I always take to be firm requests, Harry knows exactly the way he wants things but is a little embarrassed by the force of his will and tries to disguise or downplay it). The running refrain on the tape is Bette Davis saying “She liked it,” from Baby Jane. I called the tape “Labor Day Request Concert.” Harry told me that once he was listening to one of my tapes are rehearsal for The Fairy Garden and John Glover grabbed the Walkman and said, “What are you listening to?” It was just then that the tape was going from the Butthole Surfers (“There’s a time to shit and a time to pray…”) to Frank Sinatra singing with children. John Glover gave it back with a look of horror – Harry was secretly glad to counter Glover’s aggressiveness with something shocking, but he realized the weirdness of him sitting in rehearsal placidly listening to these insane juxtapositions.

Andy Jackness’s set for Harry Kondoleon’s play THE FAIRY GARDEN at the Second Stage Theatre

Jeff Weiss’s show was pretty crazy, too – another version of And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, this time acted out by a full cast (the first time we saw this, he did all the parts himself – I remember that night vividly, also at the Garage, Tom Waits was there looking autistic), including several Wooster Group people, plus a bunch of really hunky actors, including an amazingly tall (possibly seven-foot) actor named Sturgis Warner who made me dizzy just to look at him, gorgeous, muscular, handsome in a Peter Evans sort of way. The show was a sort of detective caper, with Ron Vawter as a detective tracking down the Finnish gymnast who’s been killing people – of course it’s Connie Gerhardt (Jeff Weiss) imitating a Finnish gymnast. The sick thing about the story is that everyone starts imitating Connie’s pickup lines – the detective acts them out with his teenage songs in grab-ass sessions in the garage. (More kissing, wrestling, and groping – all gay – in this show that any I can remember.) The underlying story was the pathology and tragedy of real actors, with so many personalities trapped inside them – also the personal tragedy for Jeff Weiss of aging, of having worshiped youthful physique and maintaining it unnaturally into his 50s, now crumbling and sweating out time. The most moving, chilling, also bathetic moment was a scene on a bus after a wrestling match when Connie is thinking aloud to a young wrestler (actually his own son, long ago conceived with a lesbian so they could get welfare, named Narcissus) and begging him to run away with him and love him.

Jeff Weiss and Sturgis Warner

At intermission we stood out on the street. A rather bizarre homely straight couple stood against the wall making out and playfully imitating the pickup lines from the play. Three people passing by picked their way through the crowd on the sidewalk and one guy said, “This is like theater in the live.” We chatted a little with Patrick Merla, who was in the audience. He has crossed eyes, very disconcerting to deal with, and an incredibly queeny voice but in some ways he looks very charismatic with his leonine mane and grand manner. While talking to us, he waved at someone and imperiously called, “Come over here.” It was Keith McDermott, a former boyfriend of Edmund White’s who was in the show.

Jeff Weiss reminded me a little of James Leo Herlihy, whom I finally met when Stephen and I went to dinner with him, Joe Frazier, and John Tveit (Joe’s organist friend) in San Francisco. I was surprised to find that I liked Jamie a lot – perhaps because unlike most famous people he didn’t simply grab center stage and hold forth – he was very solicitous and personable. We quickly got into a conversation about altering sex habits to avoid AIDS. He confided that what he loved doing more than anything in the world was sucking cocks, and he’d decided not to do it so often and not to swallow cum anymore. He said whenever the possibility of sex arises, he always finds an excuse to go to the bathroom or be alone for a few minutes to ask himself if this encounter is really worth it – worth the emotional effort as well as possible health risk, or is it just a meaningless impulse – and he finds himself deciding against it more often than in the past. He recently sat by and watched his mother died from cancer, and his roommate/boyfriend in LA has AIDS.

Tallulah Bankhead and James Leo Herlihy

Jamie had a little notebook which he kept taking out to jot down felicitous phrases, even though Stephen says he’s given up writing. He was very impressed (and a little envious) to hear that I’d written my Shepard biography in six weeks while recovering from hepatitis. He loves Sam Shepard, loves movie-star bios. I told him the story Bill Kleb told me about Shepard peeing in a prop toilet during class, and Jamie insisted that I put it in the book – otherwise I would be doing a disservice. “This book is in part a love letter,” he said, “telling Sam Shepard you’re fascinating, you’re talented, you’re pretty, and so on. But it’s also a mirror – you have to say ‘And then there’s this!’ Stars want you to do that.” He said it’s demeaning to be “nice” in one’s writing. He quoted Tolstoy saying “The two things a writer needs are a dirty mind and a good sense of gossip.” He was very encouraging and flirtatious without being overbearing. He described his ass as looking like “a pair of used tea bags.” His second play Crazy October, which he ended up directing, starred Tallulah Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, and Joan Blondell – how unimaginable!

Three pictures of me taken within the space of three weeks in 1984

Quote of the day: CHILDREN

March 2, 2012

CHILDREN

I was too beautiful for public school. I had to be taken out. The other students would bite me. They couldn’t deal with undiluted beauty. Children are irrational. I’m an artist. I dip my fingers in poison and make beautiful things.

Harry Kondoleon, Rococo

Eve Gordon and Frances McDormand in the 1981 Yale production of "Rococo"

From the deep archives: Harry Kondoleon’s SELF TORTURE AND STRENUOUS EXERCISE

March 16, 2011


Adding to the archive I’m creating at HarryKondoleon.com, I’ve just posted online the review that I wrote for the Soho News in 1980 of his one-act play Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise, one of his best and most-produced works.

This was his first full production in New York City (while he was still a student at Yale Drama School), my first exposure to his wicked wit and attention-getting language, and the first attention he got from the New York press.  He wrote the play for a class taught by Arthur Kopit. The assignment was to write a play with three characters named A, B, and C. As I synopsized in my review:

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.”

You can read the complete review online here.

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.”

From the deep archives: Harry Kondoleon’s “Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise”

March 2, 2010

This was my review in the Soho News of the first Harry Kondoleon play produced in New York:

I wish Harry Kondoleon’s Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise had played longer than its 10 showcase performances, so I could urge you to see it. Kondoleon’s amusing one-act isn’t great, but it’s more than merely diverting. A comic soap opera about urban sophisticates, it’s one of those crazy, Joe Ortonesque plays in which the characters say and do the outrageous things most people think of but never actually say and do – that’s how Kondoleon can squeeze so much material into a feverish 45 minutes.

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.” The two women eventually team up against the egomaniacal Carl; Beth is a frustrated poet, Adel an aspiring novelist, and they’re tired of being exploited in Carl’s pulpy best-sellers. “I won’t wear lost love like a corsage,” sobs Beth, launching a hilarious demonstration of her orchidaceous verse. “How long are you going to keep sending the same five poems to The New Yorker?” taunts Carl. “You think they’re amnesiacs?”

All this hysteria was smartly enacted in Theater Core’s production at the Newfoundland Theater, especially by May Quigley as Adel and Ken Olin as Carl (who seemed, aptly, a swell guy rather than the “rat with a necktie” he was pegged by the women). Max Mayer’s staging was also clever; on exiting, the actors retreated to a balcony over the stage to observe the action as raptly as the audience did.

Self Torture played on a double bill with Keith Reddin’s Desperadoes, which opened with a promising Sam Shepard-ish image: a woman pasting wet dollar bills all over a blindfolded man in jockey shorts tied to a chair. The play didn’t live up to that tableau, though. It was Moonchildren meets When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder meets American Buffalo without any real threat of danger. Those plays are decent models, though, and Reddin is clearly a writer with potential.

Soho News, August 20, 1980

From the deep archives: Harry Kondoleon’s THE BRIDES

February 22, 2010

Caroline Kava, Mary Beth Lerner, and Ellen Greene in Harry Kondoleon's "The Brides" (photo by Jonathan Postal)

I’m in the midst of launching a website that is a tribute to and archive of the work of the late Harry Kondoleon — details to be announced soon. But for the moment, I’ve gone back and posted my review for the Soho News in 1981 of his play The Brides (or Disrobing the Bride, as it was called in its first New York production). Harry Kondoleon was a true original artist, and The Brides was one of his most delirious, unusual texts for the theater.

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