There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Saturday, July 18th @ 10:45 pm
Sunday, July 19th @ 1:45 pm
Thursday, July 23rd @ 5:00 pm
They say: A stripper’s boss, after rescuing her from drug hallucinations caused by a drunk doctor, encounters a cranky Korean maid and a black policeman. Crimes follow, provoked by dialogue sounding ‘like a collaboration between Woody Allen, Tom Stoppard and Chris Rock.’
Chris says: Imagine the following: a stripper dressed like she watches too much “I Dream of Jeannie,” a made-for-daytime-TV doctor, and a country-fried yokel of a strip joint operator. Sprinkle that mental image with assorted weirdos: a pope, a bovine wife, a grating runt of a man scolding your use of language, an Asian domestic who’s really a DEA agent, a cop who’s really a masseur, and so on.
Next, imagine that each of these figures has a distinguishable manner of speaking: The doctor sounds like the voice-over for an old film noir; the yokel sounds like something off Andy Griffith, King of the Hill, or one of the Ernest movies; the grating runt man (technically, “The Spooky Human Dictionary,” henceforth the HD) sounds like an Americanized Stewie Griffin; the Asian domestic lays the me-speaka-you-flied-lice–long-time on thick; the cop, black no less, sounds like a cartoon leprechaun.
But now imagine that they all sound exactly the same in a writing sense, so that if you read the words on the page the only voice you’d get is the author’s. Imagine these figures dotting their long speeches with vaguely clever but mostly ill-conceived one-liners. “A bod up to here and a face only a muslim could love.” “Embrace it as a mother embraces a lactose-intolerant baby.” “There’s nothing wrong with you that suicide wouldn’t cure.” “You’re duller than a first lady memoir.” “Gnomes escape me but I never escape a fez.” “See you later cockulator. / In a while pedophile.” “When is this bard of Avon calling?”
Now that you’ve imagined all that, you don’t need to go see it.
There’s an approach to play analysis whereby you start at the end and work to the front to see what sets what in motion. Let’s try. At the end, the doctor’s been shot by his friend, the masseur dressed as a cop. The masseur shot him because he wants the Human Dictionary’s bag of money. There’s a bag of money because, um, something about drugs. (The doctor’s name is Zedrine, first name Ben. Get it? Haha. Groan.) And the DEA agent is posing as the HD’s domestic because, um, again something about drugs. We’re in the HD’s apartment because—I don’t know, but it probably has something to do with stripper’s trance, and the stripper was in a trance because, well duh, the doctor drugged her. Oh my goodness, this play makes no sense.
Considering that the story begins with a stripper and a john (the doctor), it’s a bit of a puzzle that the most intelligible and problematic themes of the play have to do with race. The HD has taught his Asian domestic that the polite way to say hello is “It would behoove me to be receptive to your penis,” and gives his address as “Darkytown.” There’s a lame routine between the black cop/masseur whose name is Rochester, and Benjamin Zedrine, i.e. Mr. Benny. None of this makes enough sense to bother taking offense, but I infer that the author was looking for some thin ice to skate on.
Whoever wrote thiswhoever “Hiawatha Lopez” really ishe, she, or it has a sort of mad talent for the odd twist of language and logic that you might expect from a Shakespearean fool. The catch is that you wouldn’t want the fool writing the whole play, and you wouldn’t want to listen to no voice but the fool’s for two hours.
See it if: You enjoy Stoppardian wordplay, but will settle for worse.
Skip it it: You can.