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At some point, it must have occurred to Ian Allen that Washington theater is tragically short on audience-participation scenes involving tequila shooters and 6-foot singing penises.
No longer: Allen’s Cherry Red Productions is back, serving up another of the gleefully smutty shows that have become the company’s trademark, and we are once again left gob-smacked and slack-jawed, wondering where the hell they find this stuff.
The foofy-critic thing to say about Jeff Goode’s Poona the Fuckdog and Other Plays for Children would be that it’s a jaundiced, adults-only parody of those painful children’s-theater productions that purport to teach important life lessons through saccharine stagings of fairy tales and fables. The fact, though, is that, although it does poke a bit of fun at the form, Poona isn’t really clever enough to merit the “lampoon” label. It’s mostly an awkward adolescent exercise in mildly provocative naughtiness, a string of sex jokes and masturbatory sight gags stitched loosely together by a conceit that doesn’t bother to masquerade as a plot.
And yes, it’s also intermittently funny, in that South Park-ish way that makes you laugh at the nerve of both author and performers. There’s Poona herself (the drag performer Lucrezia Blozia), a vacuous and perky pup in pleather bustier and cotton-candy wig, who has no friends to play with because she’s from a broken home, not to mention a working-class familyand well, the cheery narrator tells us, that’s just how the world works. (Such is the satiric level on which the show works.) There’s the Fairy Godphallus, who appears, clad in nothing at all, to welcome Poona to puberty with a special gift”a beautiful pink box with a fun game inside”that renders her instantly popular. (Such is the frat-boy brand of humor it employs.) And there’s the wandering alien, whose name sounds just like a common vulgarity referring to the female anatomywhich provokes much mirth and a certain degree of comic misunderstanding.
There are handsome princes with irritatingly smug smirks and impressively low levels of body fat, leotard-clad players wearing cardboard sun and moon in the best allegorical children’s-theater style, and a talking television set who flashes her breasts at the audience and is promptly chosen to rule the kingdom.
And yes, there’s that bilingual sing-along of “Tequila,” led per usual Cherry Red practice by an actor for whom the universal language of music remains an alien tongue. (Richard Renfield’s comic deadpan deserves mention, however, if only because there can’t be many performers who can keep a straight face while wearing little more than a Styrofoam headdress in the shape of a frenum.) On opening night, at least, the Metro Cafe bartender passed out $1 tequila shots during this number, and the audience, perhaps inspired by the program note claiming, “We’re funnier when you’re drunk,” bellied right on up to the bar.
I’d like to report that Poona is actually a roaringly funny exercise, especially because I was the butt of one joke, but the fact is that, even seen through the haze of a double bourbon, this show is nowhere near as smart as Cherry Red’s last Metro Cafe outingthe blissfully outré Romeo and Juliatric, in which Allen was able to pile on the jokes without having to worry about whether the audience was following the plot.
Maybeand here’s an unlikely thoughtthe good folk at Cherry Red should stick to the classics. CP