Over at the Cherry Lane Theatre is one of the most bizarre, unsettling and purely theatrical offerings of this years FringeNYC Festival. It is called THE DICK AND THE ROSE but it might have been subtitled “a ME production” as its writer, director and composer Robert Biggs also performs in the production as the character ME – its narrator.
A ringmaster who becomes more and more angry as he introduces each of the nine scenes that comprise this 55 minute meditation on infanticide while charming the audience with his off handed, casual manner and playing of several instruments, including a euphonium.
One of the most striking aspects is its set design by Emily Justice Dunn – a diaphanous round silk sheet with lots of holes punctured throughout. There is also an oven allowing the characters to emerge and disappear. The production is very Fellini in its circus like setting and presentation.
Which brings me to the most impressive Caley Milliken, an excellent performer, who is the Circus Girl/Crone. It is she, with her rose, who becomes enamored of one of the largest and most active pseudo phallus ever seen on stage. With the girth of an elephant’s trunk and endless length it stalks her in and out of the previously mentioned holes. It belongs to the Sleeper (a strong Ron Botting). As they tango their way through their courtship many, many puppet children are born, sticking their heads through the very same holes. It is an absolutely weird and wild sight. In addition, they sing.
Operating all these shenanigans under and outside of the sheet are five equally talented Ministering Angels (Gail Shalan, Kelsey Jayne Hogan, Jake Elitzer, Evan Gambardella and Jennifer Vargas) led by Bandleader Ian Milliken. They, at times, join in with some instrument and stagehand chores. The entire show’s movement (Barbara Allen) is choreographed down to the split second as it flows by quietly sneaking up on you to its horrible conclusion.
All those demanding, screaming kids just make Circus girl nuts and so she kills them. Caley Milliken has every emotional nuance there can be to portray her descent into this diabolical territory. You cannot take your eyes off of her especially as the old crone who sings an extremely strange lullaby.
The costumes, puppets and mask are the design of Jim Day and they are strangely correct.
THE DICK AND THE ROSE is a daring, surreal and wonderfully theatrical venture into the darkest of deeds previously unspoken of except in Greek tragedy. Hopefully there will be an audience beside a Fringe Festival audience to see this modern day tragedy to stop the madness that we so often read about. NO LATE SEATING.
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