You’re depressed. You’re anxious. You’re hungry. Your silverware needs a polish. Your floors need scrubbing. You’re not getting laid. Your dreams need color. Your nightmares need subduing. You’re running at a million miles an hour or crawling like a slug. The answer is simple: You just need a little Magnum Pussy 25.
Take a hit of Magnum Pussy 25 and let it dose you into sanity or insanity or nymphomania or homicide. You can find it on the television, the television that coos you into obedience and blindness and death. Magnum Pussy 25 will distract and occupy you so you won’t notice that everything and everyone is rotting into heaps of aluminum, lipstick and ejaculate.
This is the demented, grotesque playground of Entertainer Zero Machine: A Cyber Peep-Show Lyric Of Illegitimate Theatre, a new play by Ron Allen in which the veteran Detroit poet and playwright assaults you with nonstop vaudevillian horrors and literally naked absurdist drama. Its message is clear but its language and symbolism are not. The moral of the story is acute, yet its structure and rhythms are staccato and disjointed.
Entertainer Zero Machine looks like a play but really it’s a poem: a noisy, surreal and indulgent ode to our overmedicated, overstimulated, entertained-out-of-our-minds society. And, like a poem, its meanings and impact have much to do with you.
The drama begins on two elevated monitors broadcasting a commercial — a testimonial from a suburban housewife about the wonders of a singular cleaning agent/intoxicant/mind-killer known as Magnum Pussy 25. The woman’s pleasant, slightly breathless monologue attests to the miracles that occur with regular use.
Like much of the play, the "commercial" is funny and horrible and reminiscent of all that our modern society has grown accustomed to as our televisions hawk medications to solve everything from societal anxiety to erectile dysfunction. Get stressed out? There’s a pill for you! Unhappy? We’ve a pill for that too!
It’s a fitting preamble to what Allen’s play expounds on for two hours. After the perfectly-poised advertisement, the audience is jarred with the environs of a back-alley prison/torture- chamber for damaged humans who’ve had their fair share of run-ins with canned happiness. They’re in cages, screaming at each other about "entertainment" and "the machine" and, of course, Magnum Pussy 25. When they’re not in cages, the characters perform a kind of Marx-Brothers-on-mescaline routine of overacted gags.
Before and after these scenes, an ethereal, ghostly lass holds in her clutches, with a long leash and collar, a man, naked except for the belts looping around his body. In this symbolic Greek chorus of the play, the lass and her pet man offer enigmatic and authoritarian commentaries and introductions as various incarnations of the 13-member cast appear at breakneck speed. A troupe of naked women covered in dirt lurks in the shadows; a feral and lyrical group of primitives offers an antidote (and salvation, I presume) to the cracked and bleating lunatics from the prison cages.
Every once in a while, various characters show up completely in the buff, their nakedness generally less graceful and melodious than the four nymphs known as "the no-mind guerillas."
The random absurdist drama thickens. Santa Claus makes an appearance as does a man of leisure known as "Pimp Chain Red." There’s a priest and a cowboy and a dog named Pete that runs across the stage, chasing a ball and placing the proverbial cherry on this avant-garde cake.
Costume designers Heather White and Jessica Land contribute greatly to the disjointed bad trip. Useless sleeves and way too many pockets and patch-quilt articles of clothing devised of found fabric contribute to the hallucinatory ambience.
The cast, minus the dog and someone called The Entertainer, speaks with pretty much the same voice and in varying degrees of what I can only describe as "open mic poetry fervor." Potent, blistering imagery is interspersed with monotonous reiteration.
If you try to process all that’s said you will drown. This is no breezy night of musical comedy. If you let it roll over your consciousness, listening more to the pounding rhythms and tones than trying to digest it all, the play’s meanings will reveal themselves.
The production is thoroughly local, with director John Jakary (Zeitgeist Theatre) and choreographer Roberto Warren framing all the words, chants and over-the-top imagery with ballet-like precision. With their expert touch the drama feels more like a bizarre dance recital than a straightforward play. When the characters are in motion, they seem to step and run and jump to an invisible song stuck in their heads.
So, if you like to hear things like, "on the cusp of treachery," and, "the gritty cheesecake of illusion," as huge phalluses are paraded in front of caged fragments of human wreckage, and you like your theater with more than just a small dose of experimentation, then you’ll have an interesting night ahead with Allen’s latest. If you don’t, go anyway and dig the crazy get-ups.
Entertainer Zero Machine: A Cyber Peep-Show Lyric of Illegitimate Theater plays Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1-2, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8-23, at the Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 E. Milwaukee St., Detroit. Tickets for all performances are $20 or $15 student with valid ID. Call 313-873-2955 for reservations.Dan DeMaggio is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].