1. Review of OLD-FASHIONED PROSTITUTES (A TRUE ROMANCE) (May 5, 2013)
Richard Foreman has been writing, directing, and designing his off-beat, surrealistic, Off-off Broadway theatre pieces for half a century, but there’s been nothing from this so-called godfather of the American avant-garde in some time. So Foreman fans will surely swarm (or, given how long he’s been around, limp or crawl) out of the Astor Place subway station to descend on the Public Theatre for his latest offering, the 65-minute long OLD-FASHIONED PROSTITUTES (A TRUE ROMANCE). Folks, the title is the best thing about it.
All the familiar Foreman devices are there--the strings across the stage, dividing it into discrete sections; the dreamlike scenescape (but without the once-standard perspective effects), the robot-like movements; the peculiar costumes; the hypnotically soporific line readings; the oddball props; the sudden blasts of unusual sound or light; the weird offstage voices that chime in at unexpected moments; the impenetrable prose layered over with a shmear of equally impenetrable pondering on subjects like the meaning of existence, and so on.
Watching this deadly play (if you choose to honor it with that appellation), whose best-known actor is Rocco Sisto, is like going back in time to the challenging experiments of the theatre in the sixties and seventies. Seeing the same old, same old in 2013, however, makes you feel as if you've retrieved an artifact from a time capsule; you wonder, “Did we really think this was so special back in the day?”
No sooner did the play start than an amplified voice said, “The play is over.” This was repeated, midway, but it was a cruel tease, as there was still a half hour to go. Finally, when the show really was over, the phrase was spoken once again. The lights came up and the audience, not trusting the voice, sat on its hands before the tepid applause began. My wife’s critique on leaving summed it all up: “That was the longest 65 minutes in my life.”