Preposterous (and delightfully so). Much like Anna Nicole Smith’s pictorial in this month’s Playboy, Louis Cancelmi’s ’00 new play, “Meet Curtains,” sets this reviewer on fire. Somewhere between Beckett and Bernhard, this shocking new comedy mixes abstract realism with comedic farce.
The cast is made up of actors from E*T*N*Y (EXPIREMental Theatre New York) and a number of anonymous cameos by Yale undergraduates, who are supposed to remain entirely nameless; although we can’t help but mention that Mary Weld ’02 makes a powerful and seductive debut as a wise-cracking lap dancer. Her French accent is perfectly delectable and her interactive seduction scene is brilliant. The idea of turning the audience into an audience within the play is not a new one, but I don’t think the audience members who have their feathers rattled by the showstopping “Sugar” will mind that one bit.
“The idea is ultimately to give the audience members the experience of being objectified and physically exploited — but in a good way,” said Jami Johanes of Team E*T*N*Y. “The Mafia, of course, is a conduit for some ghastly murders. Murder, at its very least, is an end to a body. To a story. What would happen if a body were to stay alive when the soul is gone? What would happen to the sex industry if the Mafia were gone? It’s really a New Yorker’s play at heart.”
You might say Cancelmi tongued that cheeky oracle Bertold Brecht when he dreamed up this Technicolor romp of hitmen, strippers and murderous johns. The main scenes take place in the obnoxiously loud bar Curtains, which sounds like a campy gay bar, but is actually a front for Mafia money laundering, prostitution and murder. The cast portrays Curtains’ customers with just the right mix of sex and sarcasm. The coterie of regulars sit open-crotched every night until the plot thickens when “a mysterious customer begins making the rounds and a string of elite erotic dancers disappears along with their high-profile regulars.”
Beginning with the tense moment right after the curtain rises, this play shows an amazing talent for going off book and producing the type of double entendre hinted at in the title. The brilliant set design by the ever-sly Brennan Gerard ’01 gives “Meet Curtains” room to breathe and come to life. The single act performance crescendos and crashes in less than an hour, leaving behind a whirlwind of exiting imagery and a vivid sense of nakedness. (Warning: this play contains adult content and nudity!!!) In the end, delightful as this treat may be, the audience almost feels like it’s over right before it has begun. The cast has sworn reviewers to secrecy concerning all the major elements of the plot’s resolution. It can only be said: Billie Holiday, bodies, boobies and a fantastic court scene.
As for me, I was tickled as pink as a young boy who has just discovered his uncle’s stash of Penthouse magazines. I can confidently say this is “expiremental” theater at its hottest. The question is: can you stand the heat?
The play will go up Friday night at 8pm in Stiles Little Theater and will cost $2 at the door. To make reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.