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Gallaudet University: Eastman Studio Theatre

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Tuesday, July 14 at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at 7 p.m. Friday, July 24 at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 1:45 p.m.

They say: A burgeoning theatre company from eastern Europe brings its revolutionary new movement — the Theatre of Self-Loathing — to Washington, D.C. Their abrasive satire is an introspective, meta-theatrical exploration of why we hate and love to hate art.

Peter’s take: Performers will sometimes refer to a “comic’s comic” or a “musician’s musician”—a practitioner of the craft who can be best appreciated by other practitioners, but who is likely to leave the average audience member baffled. This show is a theater person’s theater piece. And that’s not a bad thing.

Blind Pug Arts Collective Presents: The Theatre of Self-Loathing Presents: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?—a title nearly as long as the 75-minute performance—introduces American audiences to Eddie and Cassilda, the veterans of an avant-garde troupe from a never-named Eastern European country. They are later joined by a former college professor known only as Actor 3, who may or may not have been abducted by Eddie and Cass and forced to join the company in a decidedly subsidiary role.

Despite the title, with its intentional misspelling, you will not be seeing any Edward Albee here. Instead, the trio (and a puppet named Heather) offer up a scattershot parody of famous plays and well-known stage tropes and superstitions. There are nods to everything from Japanese Noh theater to Tennessee Williams, and a couple of digs at Oklahoma!

The show works best when the cast—who first appear on stage stiffly clad in black a la Mike MyersSprockets expressionist Dieter—satirize theater’s pretensions: a Brechtian skit for children in which two friendly lions seek out lebensraum and the extermination of their foes, for instance, or a riff on Washington’s current infatuation with updated versions of Chekhov. Things get weaker when the show gets more somber, as when Shakespeare‘s misogyny is briefly explored.

But regular theatergoers will have a good time, and actors and theater artists in particular will find a lot to laugh about. When Actor 3 gives a brief history of superstitions of the stage, audience members were leaning forward in anticipation, wondering if he would dare say the forbidden name of Shakespeare’s Scottish king.

In keeping with the theater-company-within-a-theater-company conceit, the performers’ real names are not provided in the program or on the Blind Pug website. This is a shame, because all three are exceptional, and have perfect comic timing throughout the quickly changing styles and themes. (They wisely do not affect fake accents, sticking to their true American voices.) Eddie is an excellent physical comedian, while Cassilda explores various characters with both exaggeration and subtlety.

At one point, Eddie tells the audience of all the lives he has lived on stage, and incredulously asks, “Why are you here? How can you stand just sitting there?” Virginia Wolf is a show best enjoyed by those who have been on both sides of the stage.

See it if: You’ve ever been in a show you did not quite understand.

Skip it if: The avant-garde leaves you off-guard.