By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
That famous moment at the old-fashioned water pump on the edge of the stage is the big catharsis, of course, for characters, actors and audience. And it's all true. Gibson's play, approved by Helen, was derived from her own memories, including her realization with Annie that "wa-wa" was what she called water as a toddler. The pay-off in this climactic scene is not just Helen's new understanding of words, but her immediate expression of gratitude to Annie Sullivan for giving her a way to say them.
Good theater gives you something to be grateful for too. Here you get the story of Helen Keller's miraculous awakening, as well as the performances of two actresses who find a true bond with their roles and with each other.
King of the Road continues through February 17 at Undermain Theatre's Basement Space, 214-660-7731.
Concocted by Posey and his cast, King of the Road lifts some names and story elements from Death of a Salesman but all comparisons to real art end there. Shades of an X-rated Pee-Wee's Playhouse give way to two hours of nonsensical scenes played out by inmates from the asylum for the criminally creepy.
Posey, a once-handsome actor who's starting to look like John Carradine as he lurches past middle age, plays Bill LaMans, demented, wig-wearing patriarch of a family that performs terrible vaudeville routines. Sons Bif and Hapi (Ben Bryant, Carrie Bourn) seem unaware that under their wigs and baggy pants one of them is a girl. Mom Linda (Walter Hardts) is a black man in a blue hairpiece and pink cocktail dress. Uncle Ben (Kevin Grammer), with various others, pops up on the giant video screen upstage to lip-sync (poorly) tunes from Pink Martini's Sympathique. Quel stale.
The most repeated line of dialogue is "Shut the fuck up!" You'll wish, like after the long ruminations on the "Franco-American War" and on the medical condition of Fidel Castro. Audience members are dragged onstage. Bad magic acts are performed. Actors harness themselves like human puppets and call each other "ass-wipes" and "cocksuckers."
Deep into the second act, as members of the audience begin tunneling out of Undermain's basement theater and up to Main Street to escape the horror, the cast mounts one last assault. One by one, actors bend over and pretend to shoot ping-pong balls from their hindquarters. No actual anuses are visible during the ejection of the little plastic orbs, but it hardly matters. They've pulled the whole show out of their asses, so this part of it hardly comes as a surprise.