Sunday, January 22, 2006

Puppetry of the Penis

All those years growing up, I'm sure that when Simon Morley and Dan Lewry began to play with their "dangly bits," their mothers slapped their hands and told them that it was naughty to play with themselves.

Shows how much you know, Mom.

The two men have taken "playing with yourself" to new heights in what may be the most unique night of theatre one has ever witnessed, The Puppetry of the Penis, now playing at the Crest Threatre through February 15.

The Puppetry of the Penis is described as "the ancient Australian Art of Genital Origami." There's not a lot to do in the Outback, I guess!

The show was conceived and created by David Friend and Simon Morley and was the only New York off-Broadway hit of the 2001-2002 season. It has played sold out engagements in London's West End, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and all across Australia and Canada. The show recently made headlines with its Northern California premiere in October at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square.

If you didn't know that the show was being presented at the Crest, you'd have been hard pressed to get that information from the look of the theatre itself. The marquee blazes the name of movies, and there are no posters or signs which indicate what's really going on inside, except a small sign, with small print indicating where one can pick up tickets to the show.

It's also not your typical theatre crowd. We were by far the oldest in the audience. We come from an era where Lucy and Desi couldn't sleep in the same bed on television and couldn't say the word "pregnant" when she was. Look how far we've come--now we get the full monty on stage and newspapers like The Enterprise send reviewers to report on it.

It's a whole new world.

The show opens with a very funny Latina comedienne, Debbi Gutierrez, who is introduced as their "favorite fluffer." The lady is talented and has an instant bond with any woman in the audience who has raised children. She could easily have carried the show herself, but after half an hour, she broke for intermission (to allow the audience to get some popcorn and settle down for the main event).

Morley and Lewry make their entrance wrapped in velvet cloaks, presumably to give the audience chance to adjust to what was about to...uh...unfold. A cameraman is positioned under the stage so that he can do closeups of the...uh..."installations" and flash them up close and personal on an overhead screen so that everyone in the back of the house can see every minute detail.

And then the capes came off and the men got down to business.

I have to admit that for the first few tricks I was semi shell-shocked. I mean, I KNEW I was going to watch nekkid Aussies play with The Land Down Under, but there's a big gap between knowing you're going to see something and then actually seeing it.

Yes, we were looking at male sex organs in almost microscopic detail. Yes, some of the jokes were about sex. But you know what? The show wasn't coming from a sexual place at all.

Remember when you were little and you used to wash your hair in the bathtub? Remember the goofy fun you used to have pressing your hair into silly shapes? Well, that's the place this show comes from. Only instead of shaping hair, two very charming and funny men shaped their You Know Whats into kangaroos, windsurfers, turtles even the Eiffel Tower! One never would have guessed the endless possibilities. (I definitely will never look at Kentucky fried chicken or hamburgers in quite the same way again.)

Despite the versatility--and the inventive things one can do with eight flaccid inches, it does get a tad repetitive after awhile. A judicious...uh...cutting might have tightened it up a bit.

Still, it's silly, innocent fun and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

When it was all over the guys went out into the lobby to autograph copies of the book of photographs which were sold at the souvenir stand. I hardly recognized them with their pants on. I passed by one guy who had just spoken with Simon and was walking away saying "I'll never wash this hand again...."

I dunno...if I'd just shaken hands with a guy who'd been playing with himself for an hour, I think the first thing I'd do was to go wash my hands!

Stars: 4

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