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A CurtainUp Review


By

7 Blowjobs
By Jenny Sandman

South Side Cafe

…I mean, it's all so fucking decent and god-fearing and goody-two-shoes and law-abiding and thankful and smarmy and sentimental and full of wishful thinking and sugar-coated bad faith and chintzy, cheesy, boring mediocrity it makes me want to gag…It's worked me up into a fierce, semicramped state, and my heart wants to barf and blow up.
---Mac Wellman
7 Blowjobs, in true Mac Wellman fashion, begins with "Aafurry blackout" -- a clear homage to his best-known play, Sincerity Forever, populated with Furballs and teenagers in Klan garb. When Jesse Helms tried to revoke Wellman's NEA funding for Sincerity in 1990 (primarily because he portrayed Jesus Christ as an angry, foul-mouthed African-American woman), Wellman sent Helms and Reverend Doug Wildmon, the ""empty-headed purveyors of the empty hoax of the American dream", a copy of the script. The accompanying letter said "With my compliments, for the fine job you are doing of destroying civil liberties in These States. ".

Like many Wellman plays Blowjobs rails against ignorance and mediocrity, with a vicious nod to fervent, straight-laced, happily narrow-minded Republicans. The script's introduction reads: "This play is dedicated…to those supreme clowns of our sad time, Jesse Helms and Donald Wildmon; and also to Representative Dana Rohrabacher and the Reverend Pat Robertson, because they have shown such an abiding interest in my work. These gents…comprise the Four Harebrained Horsemen of our Contemporary Cornball Apocalypse."

With George W. in office the twelve-year-old play is no less topical now as then (indeed, his picture graces the set, with its own special spotlight). Senator Bob, a staunch Republican, receives a packet of photographs revealing a series of hard-core sexual acts. His ultra-conservative staff examines each of the photos carefully to determine whether they are part of a smear campaign or worse, surveillance pictures. Meanwhile, of course, they argue over who is the most shocked and horrified, pray for forgiveness, and try to hide their arousal. "I am not a pervert. I went to Bob Jones University," says Bruce, one of the senator's assistants. Later he asks, ""Can you please not use your imagination?" The photographs are somewhat unclear, and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Only in a Mac Wellman play could the following line be uttered in all seriousness: "That is not a blowjob. That is the Pope".

The more the staff protest, the more worked up they get."I" I am not a prissy type person," says Eileen, the administrative assistant whom B ruce accuses her of being a closet liberal, because she went to Dartmouth. "This one here, this one did something not right to me in my head . . . I refused to look at it, except for a little peek every now and then just to see if it's still there and if it still has that powerful effect on me…"

When Senator Bob sees the photographs, he brings in the Reverend Tom for counsel and prayer: ""Christ Jesus, hear us in our prayers and illumine the sick pathways of desire for bad things and cure us of what we should not think about if we want to avoid being chained to the wall of the State Home for the Criminally Insane. . .Photos of unnatural acts capable of rendering a full-grown man happy should not only not get us all excited but perhaps…we should stay down on all fours and pray to the Good Lord of Stone and Rubble, the Lord God of Goose Fat, the Savior of our Common Dementia. . .quot;

The plot, if indeed that term is applicable, is elliptical, and the play doesn't so much end as simply stop. But it doesn't matter. One of Wellman's trademarks is his surprising silliness; his texts usually mock Aristotelian structure. As he wrote in Cat's Paw " My secret is a chronically faulty sense of spacio-temporal continuity. I don't care if I behave in ways others consider inconsistent, not holistic, or unself-similar. Naturally this fills me like a. . .a blimp with. . .with a sense of true being. . .Do not begin with this malarky of standing on time like it was the back of an elephant. That is not airy. That does not cut it." Thus 7 Blowjobs is a paean to the elasticity of language, happily skewering the Christian Right. It's funny and subversive and in many ways is an auditory delight.

Would that this production were more visually stimulating. The acting is strong, especially by the two women (Madeleine Maby as Dot and Elizabeth Neptune as Eileen). Although they play subservient roles, their characterizations are forceful. Billy Steel as Senator Bob and Edward Miller as Reverend Tom are truly comical, not least because they take themselves so seriously (perhaps these gentlemen missed their calling). But Philip Cruise's direction is a bit leaden and allows the actors to get swallowed up in a space that is not overly large. Perhaps that's because they stand still so much of the time. The production overall feels static, in spite of a few startling touches such as the spotlight on George W.'s picture, Roseanne Barr's rendition of the national anthem, the strangely fluorescent landscape outside the office windows.

In the final analysis, 7 Blowjobs is short enough to counterbalance the occasionally slow pace. Wellman can do things with language that no one else can, and he is perfectly comfortable lambasting those in power. His fans will enjoy it, and even those new to the Wellman canon (even Republicans!) should get a kick out of it.

For a review of a DC production of this play go here

7 BLOWJOBS
Written by Mac Wellman
Directed by Philip Cruise
Starring Philip Cruise, Madeleine Maby, Ken Mason, Edward Miller, Elizabeth Neptune, Billy Steel and Michael Whitney
Set Design by Jeff Subik and Krista Gall
Sound Design by Jeff Subik, with original music by Steve Goldberger
Lighting Design by Ed Miller
Costume Design by Traci DiGesu
Running time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission
Thin Duke Productions
Trilogy Theater, 341 West 44th Street, 2nd Floor
212-868-4444
Through July 13, Thursday through Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on June 29th performance

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metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.



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