Porn again

Impulse brings it to the common folk Hot 'N' Throbbing

The press release for the second production by Impulse Theatre of the Fearless promises the troupe will present a "new form of entertainment for bargoers in Deep Ellum and Denton: unique, cutting-edge theatrical events in bars." The release continues that "people who wouldn't normally choose to spend their Friday or Saturday night sitting in a stuffy theater watching a boring play with a bunch of snobs are excited to see nontraditional live entertainment happening in their favorite bar."

What about those of us who don't choose to spend our Friday or Saturday night sitting in a smoky, noisy bar with a bunch of obnoxious drunks? Is Impulse trying to bring bargoers to the theater or theatergoers to the bar? And what will the two of us possibly talk about during intermission?

Actually, I applaud this troupe of University of North Texas graduates and students for attempting to make mobile and accessible what may be the most overlooked entertainment form in the country right now. I just wonder how well it'll work, considering that, to really enjoy a play, you have to give yourself and your attention over to it 150 percent. You'll have to either ignore the chatty, glass-clinking bar atmosphere (which means you have to work that much harder, certainly not an attractive prospect for many conspicuous consumers in 1999) or let your concentration be divided, thus blunting the impact of the production. Still, it's an intriguing experiment: The constant nearness to alcohol alone would probably lure otherwise timid potential audiences into a show. Success or failure will depend on how well scripts and performances have been tailored to fit the untheatrical environment.

Case in point, Impulse's staging of the Dallas premiere of Paula Vogel's Hot 'N' Throbbing, a comedy that picks up speed and then slams into the wall, exploding into fiery tragedy. The playwright, author of the widely hailed How I Learned to Drive, can always be relied upon to take a nontraditional, nondogmatic view of contentious topics. Just as she peeled away the layers of 12-step sediment that have encrusted complex issues such as incest and molestation in that now world-famous script, Vogel looks at pornography and domestic violence here and makes you realize the roles of victim and perpetrator may not be as easily assigned as Oprah would have us believe.

The Woman (Ernie C. Ernst) pens sex-filled screenplays for a company called Gyno Productions that specializes in feminist erotica. This supports her two bratty kids -- whiny, horny Boy (Jonathan Margolis) and rude, flirtatious Girl (Heather Suhy) -- after she has shed both a depressing, stressful job as a nurse and a husband, The Man (Sonny Strait), who beats her when he drinks. Despite a restraining order, he pounds on the door soused one weekend night while the kids are absent and strikes up a quarrelsome conversation with his ex. Sexual urges are tormenting everyone in this family, in ways from the clownish to the poignant to the horrifying, and the hormones reach critical meltdown with Daddy's return.

Impulse Theatre of the Fearless and director Cryss Buchner did an impressive job conveying the ideas in Hot 'N' Throbbing, which have to do with complicity and fear of loneliness and the way we attempt to cleanse sex of its animalism through everything from psychology (a clinical Austrian voice breaks in now and again to diagnose each of the cast members) to erotica, which The Man insists is merely "the Swedish word for pornography," even as The Woman defends it as very different (in my experience, they are different; erotica's even more boring than pornography). All in all, it was a thought-provoking, funny, finally harrowing evening.

And did I add that it took place at The Wall in Deep Ellum, and that management seemed none too happy to have a small crowd paying more attention to the makeshift stage than to their thirst? As far as I could tell, at least at this performance, Impulse Theatre of the Fearless did indeed bring theatergoers into the bar rather than the opposite, and that's probably just as well. If I were a pubcrawler out with my friends, looking for something a little different, I might discover my party mood busted when I stumbled into a play that climaxes with the beating, rape, and murder of a woman. I don't know how well the play suited the venue for non-theatergoers, but I must admit that for this regular audience member, it was certainly something a little different.

 
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