OEDIPUSSY (Curio): Shenanigans, tomfoolery and ballyhoo reign

Paul Kuhn in OEDIPUSSY at the Curio. Photo credit: JR Blackwell.
Paul Kuhn in OEDIPUSSY at the Curio. Photo credit: JR Blackwell.

As OEDIPUSSY opens, the cast takes vociferous and wounded objection to a very old Toby Zinman theater review that criticizes, among other things, Curio’s inexperience. As a segue into this performance by three middle-aged and one young actor, they deftly add “middle-aged” to the review’s issues, and howl about that. The foursome plays multiple roles, sometimes wearing what looks like diapers… or is that ancient Greek underwear? The whole experience reminds me of George Plimpton’s admonition in Good Will Hunting, “No more shenanigans no more tomfoolery, no more ballyhoo,” because naughty OEDIPUSSY is chock full of all three.

Paul Kuhn performs short interspersed narrator parts wearing a column on his head. Aetna Gallagher’s outrageously bawdy Jocasta wears silver and gold spandex. Harry Slack plays two ridiculously costumed shepherds who run in and out, à la old Danny Kaye movies. And Brian McCann, who admits to a middle-aged 49, plays silly young Oedipus in an Ancient Greek propeller beanie. At some point each actor delivers a personal monologue that seems to be partly real, showing that they, like Oedipus, are victims of fate.

Oedipussy Curio Theatre
Photo credit: JR Blackwell.

A light-swirl projection accompanies the theme music, which is very Bond. James Bond. And multiple crazy light and sound effects closely accompany the performance. Songs include Oedipus and Jocasta’s ironic love song, “It’s  Almost Like I’ve Known You All My Life,” accompanied by Kuhn’s mellow tenor saxophone. At one point he plays the sax around Slack, while clutching him to his chest. And then there’s the uncomfortable song, “Leprosy is Not Funny,” which involves unique puppetry. With its weird costumes, madcap antics, uproarious fights, and dire faux despair, Curio’s North American OEDIPUSSY premiere is close indeed to their Brit model, the Spymonkey production, but no less raucous fun.

It all looks like spontaneous carrying on, yet all the while the cast tightly follows a script (Carl Grose & Spymonkey, adapted by Emma Rice) that demands perfect comic timing. John Bellomo, with his Commedia and fight direction expertise, was the right choice for director.

OEDIPUSSY isn’t something to analyze, it’s just something to enjoy— an antidote to life’s heavy stuff. Appealingly physical and comically overwrought, it’s tons of fun. The most amazing thing about this lunatic version is that the epic tragic story actually emerges through all the clowning, sight gags and laughter. This Greek Tragedy lifted everyone’s spirits, not through catharsis, but through tomfoolery. I’m so glad I went out to West Philadelphia to see Curio’s OEDIPUSSY. [Calvary Center for Culture and Community, 4740 Baltimore Ave.] April 24- May 24, 2014, curiotheatre.org.


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