Friday, August 3, 2012

Political Animals On The Prowl

Here it is, the beginning of August, and American politics is deep into what President Barack Obama refers to as "silly season." Not only has NBC screwed up some historic moments from the 2012 Summer Olympics, they obviously didn't know about this event!

Meanwhile, back in Crazy-Town, things have been heating up:

As usual, Trump's approach to the situation has been "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?" Thankfully, Stephen Colbert has the proper perspective on right-wing nuttery.

With the Republican National Convention scheduled to take place in Tampa from August 27-30, one has to wonder if the Sarah Palin lookalike stripper will earn good tips and if Chick-Fil-A will be able to fill the hungry holes of conservative delegates.

With support for same-sex marriage written into the platform of the Democratic National Committee, one might hope that by the time the Democratic National Convention wrapped things up in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 6, both parties would have shot their political wads with regard to sexual politics.

One would, of course, be wrong. Oh, so horribly, horribly wrong.

On Friday, September 7, as part of the 2012 San Francisco Fringe Festival, The Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project will start presenting free performances of The Revolution Will Not Be Circumcised down at the EXIT Theatre.

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Some animals are herbivores. Others are carnivores. Some are politicians who could learn a few lessons from nature.

In 2005, in Florida's Everglades National Park, a 13-foot Burmese python's belly exploded after it swallowed a six-foot long alligator. If a predator attacks a porcupine or skunk, he'll learn a most unpleasant lesson.

Central Works has just unveiled its latest "method" creation, a dramedy by William Bivins entitled The Education of a Rake that could easily be subtitled "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum."

Eric Reid as Congressman Roy (Photo by: Jim Norrena)

The "rake" in question is Congressman Roy Armstrong who, as the only child of a single mother, has built his political career on his ability to empathize with and champion the fight for women's rights. Armstrong has formulated a plan which could not only achieve the long-overdue passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (which was first proposed in 1923), but would make him the heroic male feminist who finally got the job done.

Congressman Roy Armstrong (Eric Reid) with his
wife, Joyce (Sally Dana) (Photo by: Jim Norrena)

In Roy's mind, he's Studly Do-Right.  There's just one problem. The old saying that "A stiff dick knows no conscience" is a pretty fair description of Armstrong's (Eric Reid) morals and ethics.

Armstrong's loyal wife (Sally Dana) has worked by the Congressman's side for many years, helping to push a feminist agenda. Alas, Joyce no longer gets her husband's sexual juices flowing. "I'm having a colonoscopy in the morning, that's how old I am!" she sighs.

His mistress, Desiree (Gabrielle Patacsil), had been hoping that Roy would divorce his wife and marry her. But Desiree has lost patience with her lover's evasiveness and pathological lying. When Armstrong tells her that, in order to ensure passage of the ERA, they will have to stop seeing each other for a while (maybe a year or more), he crosses a dangerous line. Not only is Desiree genuinely in love with Roy, she happens to have a digital recording of his raunchy sex talk during some of their most intimate and adventurous moments.

Eric Reid with Gabrielle Patacsil (Photo by: Jim Norrena)

Desiree may be young and pretty, but she's no fool. After Armstrong's wandering eyes light on Gretchen (an intern working for Congresswoman Margaret Clifton), Desiree sets the recording to automatically upload to the Internet at a specific time. She doesn't just want revenge. She wants Roy's balls served up on a silver platter.  All of this leaves the audience wondering:
  • Will the Congressman leave his wife and marry Desiree?
  • Will the Congressman try to keep his coffee date with Gretchen, the star-struck intern?
  • Will the Congressman throw Desiree under the bus in order to achieve passage of the ERA and further his political career?
  • Will the Congressman keep trying to think with his dick?
  • And if he does, will his wife and mistress team up to throw him under the bus?
Jan Zvaifler has directed this piece with a keen eye toward how women react to slick-tongued men who simply can't stop lying. While there is plenty of righteous indignation (coupled with flared nostrils and looks that could kill), it quickly becomes obvious that woman are much more adept at "doing the math" than a smug, self-righteous stud who has been coasting on the benefits of male privilege for too many years.

At 70 minutes in length, The Education of a Rake is a terse, tight and taut roller-coaster ride which is every bit as knowledgeable about how to work a deal in Congress as Gore Vidal's 52-year-old political drama, The Best Man, which is currently enjoying a Broadway revival. As a playwright, Bivins always delivers some great retorts. There is plenty of barbed and topical humor to be found in his script.

What makes The Education of a Rake so interesting is that it pits two strong-willed women of different generations against the man who "done them wrong." The older woman is a solid political tactician who initially tries to negotiate a solution which will allow everyone to come out ahead. The younger woman is tech-savvy and has grown up in a world dominated by tabloid news and reality television. Even though Desiree does not consider herself to be a political creature,she damn well knows how to run the playbook for managing a political scandal.

Performances of The Education of a Rake continue through August 26 at the Berkeley City Club (click here to order tickets). Here's the trailer:

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In 1964,a new play by Peter Weiss entitled The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade became a huge hit for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I saw Marat/Sade in 1966, after David Merrick brought the RSC's production to Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre with a cast headed by Patrick Magee as the Marquis de Sade, Ian Richardson as Jean-Paul Marat, and Glenda Jackson as Charlotte Corday.

Weiss's script was based on historical events and adapted in part from the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Audiences of the 1960s were certainly not used to hearing monologues like the following:

During the New York run It was hard to tell which was more bizarre -- the sight of mental patients running up and down the aisles and "terrorizing" the audience while banging wooden spoons against their heads -- or suburban ladies seated in the front rows of the orchestra staring at Marat's bathtub through their binoculars in the hope of getting a peek at Ian Richardson's cock when he finally stood up.

The Peter Brook production was eventually adapted for film and can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.

Marc Huestis and San Francisco's Thrillpeddlers recently staged Marat/Sade at the Brava Theatre Center in a production that bore noticeable references to current events. James Blackwood's unit set displayed graffiti tags of "Obamacare" and "1%," and "Occupy Wall Street."

Rossignol (Connie Champagne) and Kokol (Tom Orr)
in Marat/Sade (Photo by: Danny Nicoletta)
Directed by Thrillpeddlers' Russell Blackwood (with music direction Scrumbly Koldewyn and costumes by Beaver Bauer), some of the inmates at Charenton looked as if they might have been the ghosts of Cockettes gone by.

Noah Haydon  as one of the patients in Marat/Sade
(Photo by: Danny Nicoletta)

Aaron Malberg gave an impressive performance as Jean-Paul Marat, with Kara Emry as his attendant, Simonne Evrard. Bonni Suval was a sometimes comedic Charlotte Corday, who appeared so weak and disoriented that she could barely stand up, much less murder someone. As CoulmierBrian Trybom gave a much stronger performance than Jeff Garrett's detached Marquis de Sade.

Others in the cast included Carlos Barrera as the Herald,David Moore as Duperret, Rumi Missabu as Jacques RouxNoah Haydon as an androgynous mental patient, and Connie Champagne as Rossignol. The play’s “Copulation Round” gave Tom Orr (the prolific singer/songwriter who is also one of the Bay area's favorite former porn stars)  a new opportunity to display his oversized cock, which has thrilled audiences in numerous venues around town.

Jean-Paul Marat (Aaron Malberg) and  Simonne (Kara Emry)
in Marat/Sade (Photo by: Danny Nicoletta)

Marat/Sade (which serves as a classic example of art holding a mirror up to society) retains a surprising amount of political truth and dramatic power. Not only does it demonstrate what can happens when lunatics are allowed to run the asylum, it makes modern audiences wonder if anything has really changed since Marat's death. Here's the trailer:

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