Sunday, April 26, 2020

55. BLUEBEARD. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Lola Pashalinski, Charles Ludlam.
 "In Lieu of Reviews"


For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and revival between 1920 and 1950), please check the prefaces to any of the earlier entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

BLUEBEARD [Comedy/Sci-Fi/Sex] A/D: Charles Ludlam; C: Mary Brecht, Arthur Brady, Bobjack Callejo, Mario Montez; P: The Ridiculous Theatrical Company; T; Evergreen Theatre (OB); 4/18/75-6/29/75 (53)

Charles Ludlam’s campy plays often parodied old movies. Bluebeard was a ripe example. After various Off-Off-Broadway stagings, it was incarnated Off Broadway when Ludlam’s troupe obtained its own theatre. The film spoofed was the 1932 The Island of Lost Souls, a chiller based on H.G. Wells’s 1896 novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, later made into other films as well. Whereas the original work was about a mad scientist struggling to turn captured beasts into human beings, Bluebeard depicted Baron Khanazar von Bluebeard (Ludlam) capturing nubile women and attempting, without much luck, to graft a “third genital” on them.

Bluebeard lives in a creepily Gothic lair shared by a deaf housekeeper, Mrs. Maggot (Jack Mallory), played in drag; a butler (John D. Brockmeyer), and a serpent named Larry. The lot centers on the events that transpire when Bluebeard’s niece (Black-Eyed Susan), her fiancée (Bill Vehr), and her chaperone (Lola Pashalinski) arrive at the island.

The language, characters, and events of the comedy were presented in a broad, campy, burlesque style. There was, typically, for Ludlam’s farces, a transvestite character played by Mario Montez. The piece was recommended to fans of the Ludlam oeuvre by Clive Barnes: “this is all raucous fun . . . with a precious smidgen of finesse.” Joseph Mancini noted: “It is really three acts of spectacle that vivisect with nihilistic fervor not only the organs of all sexual preferences, but also the tissue of the theatre itself.”

Previous entries:

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement/
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play
Alpha Beta
L’Amante Anglais         
American Gothics
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little       
And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers
And Whose Little Boy Are You?
Anna K.
Anne of Green Gables
Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead
As You Like It
The Au Pair Man

Baba Goya [Nourish the Beast]
The Ballad of Johnny Pot
Barbary Shore
The Bar that Never Closes
The Basic Training oAf Pavlo Hummel
The Beauty Part
The Beggar’s Opera
Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellens
Be Kind to People Week
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill
Bette Midler’s Clams on a Half-Shell Revue
Black Girl
Black Light Theatre of Prague
Black Picture Show
Black Sunlight
The Black Terror
Black Visions
Les Blancs
Blasts and Bravos: An Evening with H,L. Mencken