Friday, March 20, 2009

Rods and Cables

One can be forgiven for thinking at first glimpse that Allison M. Keating attended a Richard Foreman show, proceeded to simultaneously get angry and horny, and then directly birthed Rods and Cables in an orgiastic fury. After all, it's a highly symbolic show, flooded with voiced-over stage directions, and both the set designer, Paul DiPietro, and costume designer, Nellie Fleischner have worked with the Ontological-Hysterical Theater. It's also terrifically crude, making the Jello-wrestling faux-misogyny of Sheila Callaghan's The Rape Play seem tame by comparison. A pillow fight here sends feathers flying into a swimming pool of apple sauce filled with ejaculated lotion, and a woman (naked save for her red high heels) pops out of what they've euphemistically labeled "the secret red accordion hallway."

As it turns out, the second, third, fourth, and fifth glimpse only reinforce that image--Keating spits on the twelfth scene of her play and leaves the 31st page of the script blank--and yet there's something in this erratic spitfire of a play that, despite being obvious, is wholly watchable. The two-tiered circus-ring set provides the perfect venue, and costumes like a donut-carrying dress insist upon titillating even the most stubborn of audiences. (The pre-show drinks don't hurt, either.) Whatever it is--though it's safe to say the seduction taking place on the film-within-a-play doesn't add much--Rods and Cables succeeds at reimagining the loss of innocence (or perhaps you've seen a five-foot-tall shit-smeared cock before).

What's interesting is that the play makes no attempt to hide its message and even less to hide its profanity. The rasping, lecherous Sexy Clown (Joshua Koehn) enters, at the behest of the Little Man with a Big Costume (Jason Lindner) and spells it out in a poem: "Good things come to those who wait / like orgasms and cum. But gracious girls are slutty / and all the sluts are dumb." That explains the abuse toward his partner, That Woman (Lucille Duncan) as well as his excitement when she gives "birth" to the Sultry Flight Attendant (Jessie Paddock). Lest the imminent rape scene catch the one pure person in the audience unaware, sirens blare and announce it well in advance. The existence of an old-fashioned TV-sized radio further embeds the tradition of this piece, though distractions--like a bicycle wheel that at one point protrudes from That Woman's crotch--aim to unbalance our perspective.

As objects, rods and cables don't actually have points; they serve only to fit or tie other things together--in large part, they are buttresses. As a show, Rods and Cables has a point, but no real support for it--only gross exaggeration. Surprising, then, how well Keating's play manages to hold up, running on the heavy musk of shock, excitement, and sex.

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