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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
Wurst (Take it and eat it!) (I mean... take it and keep it!)
by Les Gutman
Although lots of my friends go to Williamsburg for all sorts of reasons these days, I confess I've only found one reason to take the "L" train across the river, and that's the free beer they give away at Collapsable Hole.
That's not true, of course. The real reason is that the stuff they call theater at that place is the truth. One discovers plenty by going to the theater all the time: sometimes it is people trying to make television onstage; other times, they are trying to make movies. Even more frequently, it's impossible to tell what they had in mind. But when one sees Radiohole (or its sister theater company/co-tenant, Collapsable Giraffe), there's no doubt one is witnessing something that could only be called theater. I don't purport to be a theoretician, so I can't define it, but I know it from a certain tingling feeling I get (and I don't mean the one in my ass from sitting on plywood risers for an hour or so).
There is some discussion in Radiohole's Mission Statement about all of this. My favorite part (I quoted this at the top of my review of The History of Heen which is linked below) reads:
It is our sincere hope, however, that given sufficient heat, we may be able to forge together the holes of many separate holes [sic] breeding sources into one great hole, erupting into a great ball of flame and emitting a full spectrum of noise; we will then dub this a Performance.So I suppose it is the heat that generates the tingle. More specifically, I think, it is the sheer combustibility of what these wacky thespians do that excites. It's the art of taking chances, of knowing that something may go up in flames, and not letting it slow you down. Seeing such is a rare treat.
Which brings us to Wurst. The central source material for this enterprise is Siegfried, part of Fritz Lang's epic Die Nibelungen, and perhaps surprisingly, Radiohole actually tells the well-known German tale. A prince of the Netherlands, Siegfried, armed with a magic sword, sets off for Burgundy in pursuit of the beautiful Kriemhild, sister of King Gunther. Along the way, he slays a dragon and bathes in its blood (the latter rendering him sword-proof except for the spot on which a pesky leaf fell: his Achilles' heel). He also manages to acquire a magic cloak (from a dwarf), that renders him invisible when it is worn. In order to win Kriemhild, he has to help Gunther win Brunhild, the warrior princess of Iceland. He does this by using the magical powers he has secured. (Brunhild won't marry anyone who can't defeat her in a competition.) Both couples get married. When Brunhild discovers she was beaten by Siegfried's tricks, and also about the unprotected hole in his armor of blood, she enlists Gunther and his brother to have him killed. (She then kills herself; Kriemhild seeks revenge.)
To say that Radiohole tells the story is not to imply they tell it straight. But as seems always to be the case with this group, to describe what they do is to diminish it. Here, German myth becomes a trip through popular culture: the sword is presented via a channeling of the Home Shopping Network, there's a TV talk show called the He-Man's Warrior Hater's Club, an athletic competition requires a ceremonial donning of sneakers. There is singing, there is dancing, there is so much more. The storytelling is framed by the recitation of long series of self-help questions which reach an eerily moving and effective crescendo at the end. (I inquired about the source, which I couldn't readily identify. I got the following reply from company member Maggie Hoffman: "Sorry, we can't really talk about those self-help questions. You know, for insurance reasons."
The piece is divided into three sections, called "Siegfried Bades a Fair Blade," "A mighty king comes a wooing" and "Fight! Hunt! Death!" There's also an epilogue, Siegfried's funeral. During the last, in which the bier is hand-cranked towards the heavens, Eric Dyer (as Siegfried) unceremoniously falls off, from a height of about six feet). This is the second show in a row in which I've been prompted to warn that Eric Dyer might hurt himself, and I'd add it seems highly unlikely the premiums on Radiohole's worker's comp insurance are up to date.
If you've been reading a lot about the death of theater, don't believe it. It's alive and well, and percolating over on Metropolitan Avenue.
LINKS TO OTHER RADIOHOLE PLAYS
Bend Your Mind Off
The History of Heen (Not Francis E. Dec)
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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