A Star Is Born
Last year, a small local theater company named Pipedream Productions visited a fringe festival in Chicago and saw the Annoyance Theater's Co-Ed Prison Sluts, that town's longest-running musical. Although it has been attracting Chi-town audiences for eight years, Sluts has never been produced anywhere else, except for an ill-fated New York attempt, which took itself too seriously and quickly tanked. The Annoyance Theater folks have refused all other offers to do their show -- until the Pipedream people apparently charmed the pants off them and nabbed the rights to produce a San Francisco version. Much more satisfying than either Beach Blanket Babylon or its regular crowd of naive tourists (and much funnier, too), this local production of Sluts opened last week at the Exit Theater on Eddy Street.
The story line concerns a young woman's entrance into the fascinating, fast-paced world of coed prison, where she meets a passel of characters: the cross-dressing psychiatrist, the tight-lipped warden, the cannibal, the sex maniac, the delusional actress, the 12-year-old imprisoned by mistake. Songs bounce cheerfully from subject to outre subject -- anal sex, child molesting, bestiality, and perhaps the biggest taboo in our society today, the reading of books. There are lots of four-letter words and a knife fight involving the best-seller Men Are From Mars ...; and by and large the cast is terrific, and blah blah, whatever theater blather you want to add here, etc., etc. (See Stage, Page 54, for more on Co-Ed Prison Sluts.) OK, I'll just cut to the chase.
The true reason for attending this show is its ingenue -- a beagle named Sloopy.
Seen here in the role of a bitch named Fluffy, Sloopy ignores the obvious dog-in-drag cliches and approaches his role with a restrained elegance uncharacteristic of both his breed and the rest of the show. Surrounded by a loud menagerie of gratuitous vulgarity and lewd innuendo, Sloopy maintained his serene and graceful composure, barking not once the entire evening. And it would certainly be an easy production for a stage beagle to lose his way in.
On an average day in the life of a beagle, those moments when a human yells the words "Suck my dick!" are usually accompanied by angry or startling actions and reactions. Throughout Co-Ed Prison Sluts, though, whenever a human is heard yelling such language, Sloopy remains alert yet inscrutable, ready for love or hate, the Robert Mitchum of his species.
In one particularly sublime moment, the script calls for the beagle to summon deeply buried emotions, feelings that a dog might not want to expose to a roomful of strangers. Sloopy stunned the crowd with his commitment to character. In the scene, a male prisoner removed a handful of rolled-up lunch meat from his pants, held it to his crotch, and waggled it lasciviously at Sloopy's character, Fluffy -- a potentially dicey bit of stage business that leaves much room for tragic miscalculation.
Sloopy's role requires him to walk over and begin gobbling the meat, which he did, but he did so with a quixotic tenor, at once cautious and transcendent, as if the entire action were taking place on a bed of roses. Sitting in the audience on opening night, this writer found himself actually believing not just that Fluffy was hungry -- and enjoying the meat very much -- but that this lunch meat represented perhaps the best meal of Fluffy's life.
"He's a freak like the rest of us," says co-producer Erik Bergmann of the lone canine in the cast. "He doesn't always listen, but he shows up when you need him to."
Amid all the Nike jokes and the references to black pants, lemons, and home castration techniques, the Heaven's Gate cult suicides did inspire some moments of serious reflection. Appearing on 60 Minutes last week with her father was Kelly Cooke, whose mother died in the mass suicide, and whose parents had been members of Heaven's Gate for years. Denizens of the raver scene immediately recognized Kelly as the friendly little girl with red hair whom they'd seen walking around San Francisco handing out fliers, promoting DJs with names like "Jellybear." According to folks in the know, Kelly has lived in New York City for some time now, manages the careers of DJs, and harbors no ill will toward her parents whatsoever.
Some weeks ago, this space reviewed a small zine called Pathetic Life, published by Doug Holland, a self-described "fat slob with missing teeth and bad manners" who stayed in a Tenderloin hotel and lived a -- well, a pretty pathetic life. Since that time, Doug has improved his standard of living and taken on a new project called Zine World, a thorough and informative zine that reviews other zines from around the planet (and is intended to fill the void created when Factsheet Five throttled back to a twice-a-year publishing schedule). Never underestimate the power of the press -- Doug reports that his mention in Slap Shots "snagged me enough cash to buy several six-packs." Zine World is three bucks from 924 Valencia St. #203, San Francisco, CA 94110. (Get a case this time, Doug.)
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