Creators: David Friend and Simon Morley
At: The Lakeshore Theater
Phone: (773) 472-3492
Runs through: March 30
[The city shut down the Lakeshore Theater last week due to code violations, reportedly not to do with the 'Penis' show itself; the show is expected to be up now]
Make no mistake: I'm no prude. And my objection to this show, which bills itself as a demonstration of the 'ancient art of genital origami,' has no roots in prudery. I'll get to my objection in a minute. First, I'd just like to take a moment to describe Puppetry of the Penis to those of you who have just returned from a trip to Mars, or have recently awakened from a coma. This popular phenomenon has become quite the success, demonstrating that two Aussie boys with big dicks can make a splash twisting their penises and testicles into somewhat painful looking 'installations.' Now on tour, Puppetry of the Penis boasts a roster of limber-dicked performers (on the night I reviewed the two performers were Simon Morley, a creator of the original show, and Daniel Lewry), who shape their twigs and berries into objects like 'the hamburger,' 'the baby bird,' 'the Eiffel Tower,' 'the Loch Ness Monster,' 'the skateboard,' 'the windsurfer' and more, all of which elicited delighted yucks from the mostly female crowd. The boys describe what they're doing, give a little history of the show, and gamely attempt to charm the audience with what amounts to innocent patter, cautioning folks in the audience not to try their tricks at home.
Beyond the initial titillation of seeing the boys drop their glittering rococo capes to reveal rather prodigious members, there isn't much meat in this show. It reminds me of the kind of spectacles that used to take place near the end of the nineteenth century in bawdy show palaces in London, where the hoi polloi would be entertained by the likes of performers who played classical music using their own flatulence as an instrument. To call Puppetry of the Penis low brow would be raising the level of the show to stratospheric heights. Seriously, folks, it a sad day for modern culture, and a sad commentary on our society, when tripe like this passes for entertainment. Believe me, I'm a fervent fan of low-brow camp (see my past praise of the delightful Sock Puppet Showgirls), but this doesn't even aspire to that. I wanted to cry as the show ended with Simon Morley, mounted on a skateboard, pulling his dick and balls apart to create what looked like a windsurfer, while Daniel Lewry tried to 'blow' him across the stage with a circulating fan. Cry because this was playing to a packed house who had paid close to $40 to watch this, cry because of the fear that this might be a harbinger of things to come in entertainment, and cry with relief because this little 45-minute exercise in tedium was at last coming to a close.
The only recommendation I can give in conjunction with Puppetry of the Penis is please, for the sake of art, stay away. The show is not titillating. It's not funny. It's not shocking. It's the kind of things eight-year-old boys in a basement might giggle over. It stoops lower than a snake's belly.
Oh yeah, the play opens with a game stand-up Chicago comic, Patti Vasquez, who 'warms up' the audience with humor centered mostly around her Irish Mexican upbringing. Ms. Vasquez has a lot of enthusiasm, and wears a big smile, but her material is no better than mediocre. But at least she is better than the act that follows her.