Don Bauder 4:37 p.m., Dec. 27
SD Fringe Festival: Ubu Roi and Mona Rogers in Person
Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry.
Jarry (1873-1907) loathed all things bourgeois so much he made himself an anti-saint. He dressed and acted like a clown and adopted the role of Pere Ubu, in real life, from a character in a play he may (or may not) have written.
Pere Ubu, he said, symbolized everything that made him want to revolt.
Andre Breton called Jarry an "absinthe-surrealist," who scandalized society and made his "own life a poem of incoherence and absurdity." A forerunner to just about every outside-the-box-movement of the 20th century, Jarry died impoverished, a martyr to his self-appointed calling.
The bizarre play deliberately breaks every stage convention from the fourth wall to "realistic" acting. Ubu's wife (a la Lady Mac-Scottish play) wants him to be king. After some deliberation, the bulbous, cone-headed and pear-shaped Ubu decides, sure. After all, as king he could have his own reality TV show "and make decisions that could make people cry."
So he murders the current ruler and becomes the world's most oafish and brutal tyrant. To enrich the kingdom, for example, he puts all the nobles and financiers to death.
The Max Fisher Players perform the piece, appropriately, as a Punch and Judy show, childish, puppet-like (often with hand puppets) and outsized. They were checkered shirts and floppy hats and commit heinous crimes as if to the instinct born.
King Ubu (Richard Grieco, who enlivens scenes with ad libs) chops fruits and vegetables with faces and makes a salad of the lot.
As with most of the shows at the Fringe, the cast performs in an exaggerated style - loose, buffoonish, and comic bad taste. Scenes shift locales at the restaurant and the audience is encouraged to "be aggressive" and move with them.
Searsucker Restaurant, 611 Fifth Avenue (northeast corner of Fifth and Market), downtown: Friday, July 5 and Saturday, July 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Mona Rogers in Person, by Philip-Dimitri Galas.
"When they were passing out souls," says Mona, disillusioned to the point of nihilism, "I got a wig and a toothbrush."
She's so jaded she can barely move. She thanks former cohorts (and the audience, by implication) "for wasting the prime of my life."
She was raised in a small farming community somewhere in California. Her stagestruck mother programmed her to be a beauty queen. So Mona peroxided her hair and chased the dream of being "the next Monroe."
Didn't happen. In this 80-minute monologue (often poetic script by San Diego "avante vaudeville" legend Philip-Dimitri Galas), Mona struggles to prove that her "fall" has actually been the rise to an unvarnished view of the world ("you need a big country to get in this deep"). She sees only the skull, not the air-brushed skin.
Anne Meighan performs solo in a black cocktail dress and a near monotone. In several of the 21 scenes she berates a doll called "Little Fattie" (the younger Mona?). Meighan often freezes in place, as if for a shoot with an absent photographer. But she isn't posing, she has someone say. "You damn fool, she's always like that. Five minutes with her and you want to slash your wrists."
The non-pose is a fitting image, since Mona becomes a photographic negative of bankrupt cultural values.
Tenth Avenue Theatre, Cabaret Space, 930 Tenth Avenue, downtown: Thursday, July 4 at 8:00 p.m., Friday, July 5 at 11:00 p.m., Saturday, July 6 at 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 7 at 11:00 p.m.