By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
A lot of the audience at Uptown sniffled and sobbed through the final scene of the play the other night. Such is the power of theater to reach deep inside and affirm life and love and inner peace. If only young Zach were free to see Southern Baptist Sissies, he'd know he isn't alone and that he's all right just the way God made him. Till then, let's keep him on the prayer chain, shall we?
Like Wiggles run amuck, the actors in King Ubu gambol childishly all over the black box theater at the Bath House Cultural Center. Director-designer Kelly Russell's set has a Romper Room innocence, too, with polka dot toy boxes and kiddie chairs. But there's nothing innocent about this play, an adaptation (by Second Thought's Allison Tolman and Steven Walters, who also star) of French writer Alfred Jarry's absurdist 1896 comedy about a pompous king whose self-aggrandizing decisions lead his country into useless war.
Ubu, played by Walters as a sputtering idiot, grows bored being the ruler (he got there the way Macbeth did, by murdering his predecessor). Told by advisers that his nation is too broke to wage war, he says, "The hell with the debt. It's imaginary and so is the economy." Then he orders "baby--medium rare" for lunch and sends his under-equipped troops off to battle.
The rewrite by Walters and Tolman, who plays Ubu's "bitch of my life" wife, draws pointed and amusing parallels to current warmongering morons. When King Ubu uses the words "military strategery," you know whom they're mocking.
Second Thought Theatre may be young and they may do plays on a shoestring budget, but by golly they've turned out some good work this year. They're smart and original, provocative and diverse. Using oodles of foam noodles to protest the sick politics of war, they succeed at making an exciting new piece of theater out of a very old one.