OCR Interpretation

The villager. (New York [N.Y.]) 1933-current, March 05, 1987, Image 12

Image and text provided by Jefferson Market Library

Persistent link: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83030608/1987-03-05/ed-1/seq-12/

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, .'■; ■'' -It r VILLAGER DOWNTOWN ^Mona Rogers' is a Perverse Amalgam of Burlesque BY LEORA MANISCHEWnZ Mona Rogers has a chip on her shoulder the size of a watennelon. This very bizarre lady subject of “Mona Rogers-in Person,” now at the Cherry Lane Theatre, falls somewhere between a \yarped Barbie doll and a candidate for institutionalization. If that isn't enough to whet the appetite, the rest is no simpler to digest. As conceiv^ by Philip-Dimitri Galas and enacted by the explosive Helen Shumaker, \Mona Rogers in Person” is a 70 minute foray into the psyche of “an intellectual burlesque queen,” to use Shumaker's ex­ planation, a woman whose life fantasy was to be a glamorous photograph rather than experience the pain of real life. With that solution not an option, Mona Rogers continued to wait for photographers’ clicks while catapulting into obscurity. Yet, as she says from the starts, “Instead of be­ ing just another nothing. I'll be the best nothing that ever was.” This is a show which defies much descrip­ tion, The late Mr. Galas, a student of mine and a writer strongly influenced by the Folies Bergere, has conceived what he termed an “avant vaudeville,” a series of blackout sketches in which Shumaker has the opportunity to reminisce and orate on a variety of topics. These range from a lonely childhood to the fantasy of having a weal% husband who would be absent for a good 350 days per year, leaving her to read thrillers by her fancy pool. The themes are endless as is Mr. Galas* parody of both sex kittens and stand-up performance artists. Bathed in Mimi Jordan Sherin’s starkly colored spotlights, Shumaker is introduced in a two-toned teased wig, spike heels, and a zebra patterned, skintight strapless dress (reminiscent of prison garb as well). With her eyes harshly outlined in heavy black shading, she is suggestive of an aging movie goddess or less flatteringly, an aging call girl, but in reality can be reduced to neither of the two roles. Basically, Mona Rogers has no iden­ tifiable role. Conceived by her mother, as she states, “in lethargy,” hers is the tale of a young girl who was quiet and good, suf­ fered at the hands of a domineering mother, and, in turn, vents her own rage on a doll she calls “little Fatty” and who presently accompanies her on stage. Ms. Shumaker alternately clutches and hurls the lifesize Heien Shumaker as Mona Rogers. (Rosegg Photo) plaything, viciously lashing out at her with statements such as, “If she's thinking one nice thought, rest assured it’s not about Mona Rogers.” An extension of her own self hatred, the doll more than any other subject mkter unexpectedly evokes episodic frenzies of perseverative language and ritualistic movement, both suggestive of psychotic behavior. Shumaker, whose utter immersion in the role is mesmerizing, nearly convmces us that Mona Rogers is insane; if nothing else she makes the Joan Crawford of “Mommie Dearest” appear tame. The show’s humor emerges in Galas’ sar­ donic language, which is rich in amusingly descriptive detail. Shumaker is especially fine in deadpan moments such as m recoun­ ting a story wherein “I entered a beauty pageant out of perversity — I represented a town of 50.” She enjoys a fantasy of being elected president and replacing flreside chats with guest appearances on soap operas. Parodying her own physical ap­ pearance, she comments dryly: “I could never get away with this in Lithuania.” Mona Rogers may be a lost soul, but she's laughing at herself at every step of the way. Unfortunately, the self mockery is at too great a price. For it is with the protrayal of her angry side that the show betrays its fine mtentions. Shumaker spends a great deal of time m a chaotic state, seizure-like fits periodically overtaking her and leading to frightening displays of temper. Besides a series of shrill diatribes, these also include physical violence, with numerous objects viciously hurled about the small stage. Her self-denigration and bitterness toward the world are seemingly masked by flippant self-mockery and superficial toughness but are belied by the hysteria beneath them. The closest she comes to true self-revelation is in one quiet admission of a desperate loneliness — for the most part, however. Galas has his star fighting windmills with a rage whose frenzy bom­ bards us as a sledgehammer might. The impact is intensely uncomfortable and so garishly overwhelming that it becomes difficult to maintain sympathy for the heroine's plight. Rather, Galas leaves us with the taste of a woman highly embit­ tered and on the edge of a break. By the end, the play’s humor appears but a pathetic attempt to camouflage a tormented, fragmented soul and we are left embarrassed for having laughed at all. Helen Shumaker is a superb actress whose training encompasses dance and psychology, both of which are put to good use in a performance whose concentration and tlmmg is flawless. Under Lynne-Taylor CTorbett’s disciplined direction, she conveys a powerful blend of world-weary haughtmess and childlike regression, the two halves meshmg beautifully into a unified whole. In addition, Ms. Sherin's startling lighting effects further lend eerie support to an already eerie situation. “Mona Rogers in Person” is not for those seeking either light entertainment or realistic drama. It is a perverse amalgama­ tion of stand-up comedy, monodrama, and performance art with bizarre, if overly stated, impact at every step of the way. By her own admission, Mona Rogers is a disturbed and disturbing lady and knows it: as she herself admits; “There should be a law preventing people like me from being alone with then* thoughts for too long.” One only wishes that Mr. Galas had taken the same advice and spared us a bit as well. “Mona Rogers In Person,” by Phlllp- Dimitri Galas, Cherry Lane Theatre, 989-2020. Through March 28. Rosalind Newman and Ron Brown Both Out of Step BY DORIS DIETHER Last week was not a great week for dance. Rosalind Newman, who has done some interestmg and witty thuigs m the past, was at the Joyce Theater with two works. The older of the two, “4; Stories,” subtitl­ ed “A Bintel Brief, Letters to the Editor,” was based on letters written by immigrants to The Jewish Daily Forward at the turn of the century. The letters were projected onto the rear wall of the stage, and also read. The work, for six dancers plus some folding chairs, was well-rehearsed, with the unison sections in unison and the lifts fairly smooth, but the dance related not at all to the text. The lighting by Craig Miller was necessarily dim at times in order for the projections to be readable, but this made it difficult to see the dancers. Margaret De Wys’ music ranged from violin with elec­ tronic overtones to percussion. The best thmg about Newman’s new work, “The Teclmology of Tears,” was Canadian artist Pierre Hebert’s animated drawings, projected opto a black scrim. At first the drawings resembled stick figure dancers; later Hebert created child-like drawings of television sets and streaks of light like meteors or lightning. In the first section, to an overly loud percussion score by Fred Frith, Clarice Marshall was an out­ sider, alone in front of the scrim while the other five danced behind it. Part n had a set by Pier Voulkos con­ sisting of a bed, choir and table created with a child's sense of perspective. Mar­ shall and Daniel Peters were a couple Rosalind Newman and Dancers. (Greenfield Photo) whose apartment was suddenly invaded by the other four (Nancy Rosensweig, Emily Pease, Gabriel Masson and Michele Poglianl). What all this was about was a mystery, but again the dancing was well rehearsed, especially that by Marshall and The last section of this work was even less interesting. The dancers, in tuxedos with canes, did a chorus line routine, but, since the music had no beat, the ensemble work was ragged. Frith's score sounded like snippets of several tapes patched Masson, and the music'^was, again, too loud. . together, with the sound of breaking glass superimposed on it. Near the end, the dancers shed their tuxedoes and ended the dance in their undergarments. It was as though everyone except the animator had run out of steam. Even before the last sec­ tion, a fair number of people m the opening night audience had departed. PROGRAM OF BROWN WORKS Things were about as unsatisfactory over at the Middle Collegiate Church on East 7th Street where Ron Brown presented a pro­ gram of his works. Brown, remembered for his fine work with Mary Anthony in such pieces as Charles Weidman’s “The Court­ ship of Arthur and Al,” showed up less well in his own choreography. Throughout the program I marvelled at how Brown could have worked with Anthony, who choreographs so well to music, and then could do a complete evening's program in which any relationships between the dance and music was purely accidental. The music was not great — most of it, by Talk­ ing Heads, Jeff Majora, Kenny Jayson and Art of Noise, was nondescript except for some very brief Handel passages — but it must be difficult to ignore any musical beat completely. One wonders why Brown bothered with music at all. The program consisted of a solo for Brown, two duets and a trio, interspersed between four sections of a group work called^'In No Strange Land.” Brown's solo, “Evidence,” which opened the program, was the high point of.the evening. If the sil­ ly antics and monologue had been eliminated, and Brown had either danced to Continued On FoUowing Page March 6, .1987, THE VILLAGER, Page 9 I V'S -I-

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