review of

Charles Ludlam's "Complete Plays"


2137. "review of Charles Ludlam's "The Complete Plays""

- the complete version of my review

- credited to: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

- publihsed on my "Critic" website January 28, 2022


review of

Charles Ludlam's "Complete Plays"

by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 8-27, 2023


It took me something like 6 yrs to read this. For a large portion of the time that's b/c I had it sitting near my front door as the bk I'd read while sitting outside on my steps, waiting for food to be delivered & suchlike. But that's not really the only excuse I have. It's 905pp long.. & it's PLAYS. I've never liked reading plays that much. Still, I'm glad I finally made it thru it all, I'm sorry I've never seen any of them performed, I'll bet they're much more fun to witness in the flesh than they are as things to read. They're probably hilarious.

I 1st heard of Ludlam as one of the main progenitors of the Theater of the Ridiculous, something that I 1st became aware of thru the films made by Ronald Tavel in collaboration w/ Andy Warhol. I reviewed a bk relevant to those here: . Alas, the complete review is no longer online b/c Goodreads removed the section where it was posted.

John Vaccaro is reputed to've been the 3rd person of prominence in the Ridiculous. According to a Wikipedia entry:

"Another perspective is that Ludlam's productions were too close to conventional comedy, while Vacarro's work was more challenging, emphasizing social commentary. Lee Black Childers was quoted in Legs McNeil's 1997 Please Kill Me:

"In my opinion, John Vaccaro was more important than Charles Ludlam, because Ludlam followed theatrical traditions and used a lot of drag. People felt very comfortable with Charles Ludlam. Everyone's attitude going to see Charles's plays was that they were going to see a really funny, irreverent, slapstick drag show. They never felt embarrassed.

"But John Vaccaro was way past that. Way, way past that. John Vaccaro was dangerous. John Vaccaro could be very embarrassing on many levels. He used thalidomide babies and Siamese triplets joined together at the asshole. One actor had this huge papier-mache prop of a big cock coming out of his shorts, down to his knees. He also couldn't control his bowel movements, so shit was dripping down his legs the whole time and everyone loved it. People loved this kind of visually confrontational theater." -

So, on the one hand we're told that Vaccaro was "dangerous" & "embarrassing on many levels" &, on the other hand, we're told that everyone "loved this kind of visually confrontational theater." To me, that seems somewhat contradictory. If the work were truly "dangerous" it seems more likely to me that people wd be scared & wd want to leave. Perhaps there was some envy of Ludlam as someone who was starting to break into Hollywood before he died.

As for Tavel, I reckon he was hoping that Warhol wd help usher him into stardom. Instead, Warhol's production values cd've hardly been lower & what content there was of note in Tavel's screenplays was largely destroyed by bad sound & fixed camera positions.

In a manifesto presented on p vii Ludlam writes:

"Aim: To get beyond nihilism by revaluing combat."


"1. You are a living mockery of your own ideals. If not, you have set your ideals too low."

Steven Samuels presents a bio:

"Always somewhat "different," Ludlam was a rebel and an outcast by his high school years, wearing long hair a decade before it became fashionable." - p x

That wd mean the late '50s or early '60s. I grew my hair long at the beginning of 1968 & I was ruthlessly harassed for it where I lived in Baltimore County, MD. I don't know what "long" means here but I was frequently insulted for having hair long enuf to be over my ears - something that is probably hard to understand these days. If Ludlam's hair was even that "long" he probably endured severe hatred.

"Among the manyon the cutting edge were playwright Ronald Tavel and director John Vaccaro, who formalizes their nascent collaboration in 1966 with the founding of the Play-House of the Ridiculous in a loft on 17th Street. Ludlam made his first New York stage appearance as Peeping Tom in the Ridiculous's premier production, The Life of Lady Godiva.

""We have passed beyond the absurd; our situation is absolutely preposterous," Tavel declared in a program note, and his play gave ample evidence. Like most subsequent efforts in the divergent strains of the Ridiculous, The Life of Lady Godiva was a self-conscious mix of high and low culture, an anarchic, psychosexual phantasmagoria filled with camp, drag, pageantry, grotesquerie, and literary pretension. Its impact on Ludlam cannot be overestimated.

"A subsequent Play-House production proved equally telling. In Screen Test, intended as a half-hour curtain-raiser, a director (Vaccaro himself) was to interview and humiliate an actress and transvestite (an important early member of Ludlam's Ridiculous, Mario Montez)." - p xi

In my review of Tavel's "Andy Warhol's Ridiculous Screenplays" I wrote:

"What got me interested in Tavel's work in the 1st place was curiosity about whether The Theater of the Ridiculous was in any way an advance over The Theater of the Absurd - something I like very much. When I think of The Theater of the Absurd I tend to credit Alfred Jarry w/ being its founder w/ his play "Ubu Roi". From him I think of Eugene Ionesco & then Edward Albee as successors. SO, I wondered: is The Theater of the Ridiculous significantly different enuf from The Theater of the Absurd to qualify as a separate theater mvmt?

""While in college, while staring at the main quadrangle during a lecture of Theatre of the Absurd, I wondered: "What next?' Meaning, "What in the world could come after a Theatre of the Absurd-Theatre of the Ridiculous??" Which was to say, how far could you push this (bulldozer), how steep the descent (from the Greeks), and is there rock bottom? and who cares?" - p 132

"I reckon I'm one of those people who cares. I also reckon that I'm not convinced that The Theater of the Ridiculous added anything theoretically substantial to The Theater of the Absurd. Nonetheless, the plays/scripts themselves are different. I find the absurdist work to be more essentialized & the ridiculous work to be more sprawling. I like them both."

"Soon after Screen Test, Tavel and Vaccaro quarreled and parted. In search of new material, Vaccaro turned to Ludlam, whom he had heard was writing a Ridiculous play."


"Ludlam himself was slated to star as Tamberlaine's twin opponents, Cosroe and Zabina, but in the middle of rehearsals the famously tempermental Vaccaro fired him. Half of the company walked out with Ludlam and, at a subsequent meeting, encouraged him to stage the play himself. Then they elected him to lead their new troupe, The Ridiculous Theatrical Company." - p xii

Off to a good start, eh? Thoroughly Ridiculous.

"Polemical, furrowed-brow theater was not for him. Ludlam knew life was "comedy to those who think/ a tragedy to those who feel," and he was an irrepressible thinker. Laughter was the great liberator and the great equalizer. Anything carried to an extreme was, willy-nilly, ridiculous."


"Ludlam survived by working in a health-food store, packaging rare books, doing stunts on "Candid Camera," occasionally receiving help from Christopher Scott." - p xiii

Do you remember "Candid Camera"? I'd almost forgotten about it but I liked it very much. It was a TV show that played pranks on people & used hidden cameras to record their reactions. I remember one in wch a car had its motor removed. It was positioned at the top of a hill at the bottom of wch was a garage. A driver got in the car & pretended to drive the car into the garage. The car was just drifting but the mechanic didn't know that. The driver told the mechanic that there seemed to be something wrong w/ the car & when the mechanic opened the hood & found no motor his bafflement was recorded. Naturally, the driver was an expert at keeping a straight face. Working for them seems like a perfect job for Ludlam.

"The Elephant Woman (a "midnight frolic" consisting of a frame tale and specialty acts having nothing whatever to do with The Elephant Man, the popularity of which it wished to capitalize on)" - p xvi

I like the idea of deliberately naming or categorizing something in a way intended to be misleading. That way one provokes expectations in a (v)audience that can then be stymied. Such miscategorization is like directing a viewer's eyes away from a magic trick thru misdirection. It's a sort of 'anti-spoiler'. If one makes a movie about a poodle but calls it "An Idiot's Guide to Geometry" it might potentially create a state of mind in wch the poodle is seen as a metaphor.

"(Ludlam performed the play weekends while commuting to Pittsburgh to direct William Wycherly's The Country Wife for the drama department at Carnegie-Mellon University.)" - p xvii

Ok, I just threw that in there b/c I'm a Pittsburgher.

"A Quick trip to Coney Island in late 1981 resulted in a second silent black and white film, Museum of Wax, in which Ludlam starred as a homicidal maniac." - p xviii

That can be seen online in 3 parts starting here: .

"Ludlam directed the Santa Fe Opera in Henze's English Cat and filmed a guest spot on "Miami Vice" (having made his network television debut the previous year as a guest star on Madeline Kahn's "Oh Madeline")." - p xix

That's Hans Werner Henze, one of my "Top 100 Composers" ( ). Ludlam was very active indeed.

"More opportunities followed, The Production of Mysteries, a short opera he had written with the company's resident composer, Peter Golub, in 1980, was performed by Lukas Foss and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. He directed his own libretto of Die Fledermaus for the Santa Fe Opera. He filmed an episode of "Tales from the Dark Side" for television and was featured in two movies, Forever Lulu and The Big Easy." - p xix

Amazing. Lukas Foss, a great composer AND a great conductor AND a great improvisor presented his opera. That's seriously wonderful from my POV. Ludlam had serious creative energy out the wazoo. But one can never take anything for granted, the rug might be pulled out from under at any moment.

"The Sorrows of Dolores the very day of its premiere, April; 30, 1987. That same evening, he was hospitalized with pneumocystis pnemonia. Along with other complications, it ended his life on May 28.

"He was only forty-four. He had planned, but not accomplished, his greatest work."


"We are lucky to have the twenty-nine plays collected here to continue Ludlam's conquest of the universe. Not since Molière have we been blessed with such a playwright, and it make be several centuries more before we see his like again." - p xx

I think Samuels is probably right. Ludlam seems to've been extraordinarily energetic & inspired. Samuels also stimulates me to read Molière, it's about time.

The 1st play is "Big Hotel" from 1966 (according to the bk, on Wikipedia it's sd to've been from 1967). Ludlam might've been 23 when he wrote it.

"CRAMWELL: Yes? Birshitskaya threatening suicide? Throw herself off our roof? Don't let her do it. Talk her out of it. Reason with her! Humor her! Dear me no! Rhis will give the hotel a bad name! Don't let her throw herself off our roof!

"(BIRDSHITSKAYA appears above and throws an effigy of herself off the roof. It lands in front of the desk.)

"CRAMWELL: (To BELLHOP) Is she hurt?

"BELLHOP: (Picking up the limp dummy) No, but she will never dance again. (Carries dummy off)

"CRAMWELL: Thank God she's not hurt." - p 6

Do I detect a touch of the Marx Brothers?

Ludlam embraces self-reflexive & formalist modes of comedy that derail conventional narrative.

Enter BELLHOP. Frantic, CHOCHA, MR. X, and MARTOK torture the MANDARIN.)

"BELLHOP: Somewhere along the line, I have lost the thread of the narrative.

"MANDARIN: Don't look for it here, young man. We have a play to put on.

"BELLHOP: The whole play is falling to pieces. I've lost the thread of the narrative." - p 17

Ludlam's dialog abounds in all sorts of twists & turns.

"BLONDINE: Oh Drago, that sounds just elegant and kind of dreamy, if I may say so. (Looking at menu) How about some orange juice, Joey? (Aside to audience) I ate Limburger cheese with bagels for breakfast. I ate mofongo with garlic dressing at lunch. I ate steak and onions at dinner. But he'll never know, 'cause I always stay kissing sweet the new Dazzle-Dent way.

"DRAGO: I take it this place is soundproof?

"BLONDINE: I don't trust the waiter. He is too short.

"DRAGO: I think Blane knows more than he lets on. He's shielding someone. Sylvia Clarkson saw him with a blonde the night of February second.

"BLONDINE: (Rising suddenly) Build your Maxwell. I'll be right back. I think I'll take my wig off.

"DRAGO: (Roughly forcing her to sit down) You can't afford a week off now. We need you for the Cobra Cunt Ceremony." - p 18

"MANDARIN: (Goes to phone and dials) Hello. Is Mrs. Starkie there? This is Mrs. Cutler. It's about Lumis. No, I don't want to speak to Blane. Lumis! Lumis! (Pause) L as in Lincoln, U as in Utrecht, M as in Massey, I as in Ingres, S as in Synagogue. Lumis! Tell him I called. (Pause) Cutler. (Pause) C as in Cutler, U as in Utrecht, L as in Loomis, E as in Erie, R as in Robespierre . . . (Pause) Robespierre. (Pause) R as in Raw, W as in Wren. A small bird. (Pause) No, this is not Mr. Robespierre. Mr. Starkie. Synagogue. Yes! Raw. Utrecht, Blane. Yes. No-o-o. (He hears bells in the tower) Oh, Blondine, they're playing our song. (Exit)" - p 18

You'd think MANDARIN was calling the US Health Care .Gov hotline: . Note that they get flustered enuf to misspell "Cutler" by leaving out the "t" & things just get worse from there.

Act III opens w/ some low drama:

"(The elevator opens, revealing SANTA CLAUS, who falls forward on his face, revealing MR. X and CHOCHA behind him. MR. X wipes the blood from his knife.)

"MR.X: Have the corpse leave his name at the desk.

"CHOCHA: That's $12.50.

"MR. X: Well, what is it? Are we leaving or are they going to keep us here all day?

"CHOCHA: They've got some kind of roadblock up ahead.

"MR. X: In 1883, the French tightrope walker, Blondine, walked a rope clear across Niagara Falls!

"CHOCHA: There's no escape. Too bad they can't play it for you now, Mr. X. (They strangle each other and fall dead on stage)" - p 19

&, of course, Blondine is in one of my movies (sortof): .

"Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide, A Tragedy" (1967) is up next.

"ZABINA: Then whatever induced you to marry that Mongol tyrant, Tamberlaine?"

Ludlam's plays are full of refernce, of course. The Character TABERLAINE is an example:

"Tamburlaine the Great is a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor Timur (Tamerlane/Timur the Lame, d. 1405). Written in 1587 or 1588, the play is a milestone in Elizabethan public drama; it marks a turning away from the clumsy language and loose plotting of the earlier Tudor dramatists, and a new interest in fresh and vivid language, memorable action, and intellectual complexity. Along with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, it may be considered the first popular success of London's public stage.

"Marlowe, generally considered the best of that group of writers known as the University Wits, influenced playwrights well into the Jacobean period, and echoes of the bombast and ambition of Tamburlaine's language can be found in English plays all the way to the Puritan closing of the theatres in 1642." -

The "Puritan closing of the theatres in 1642" intrigues me but I don't think I'll look into it further just now. I'd imagine Ludlam wd've been a prime target for such a thing if he'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"ZABINA: (Pulling out a whip) Your bare bottom will feel the sting of my whip on television. Petticoats over your head. Let's see your treasure chest. (Lashes whip)

"ALICE: Stand back. I know the only weapon that can destroy you.

"ZABINA: (In horror) What's that in your hand? No. No. Mercy, I beg of you.

"ALICE: Yes! Beer! (Shakes up bottle and squirts it on ZABINA)

"ZABINA: (Screams as she passes out) No, no, not beer. Beer is my undoing.

"ALICE: (Victoriously) Now there is only one Queen on Mars." - p 28

It seems hard to be more Theater of the Ridiculous than that.

Ludlam has flagrant sexuality, something that I present too, something that seems to exist in both a repressed & extremely explicit form in our society. I imagine that in the day of this play the sex was challenging to present.

"VENUS: Doth not Tamberlaine deserve as fortunate abed as ever Venus shlaa couch upon?

"ORTYGIUS: Fie! Foul-mouthed fornicatress.

"COSROE: Whatsa matter, Ortygius? Scared of the French velvet?

"ORTYGIUS: (While the others fuck) Oh, I wish I had never come to court. So many dangers lurk here . . . intrigues and seductions.

"(Fanfare. Enter TAMBERLAINE.)

"TAMBERLAINE: Four worlds in one bed! I'll tickle your catastrophe!

"MAGNAVOX: You'll never take me alive!

"TAMBERLAINE: (Lopping off his dick) You'll never spit white again! Ortygius, what are you doing here?" - p 30

I never get tired of self-referentiality (after all, I do it all the time):

"TAMBERLAINE: That is my secret. We'll go to the theater tonight and let everyone see us.

"ALICE: What's playing?

"TAMBERLAINE: The Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide by Charles Ludlam.

"ALICE: Filth! The insane ravings of a degenerate mind! I won't go! Besides I haven't a thing to wear!

"TAMBERLAINE: It's the theater or rolling dung balls. Take your pick.

"ALICE: I choose . . . the theater." - p 36

Next up, "Turds in Hell":

"DEVIL: The play you are about to see is a mortal sin. Any person witnessing this play takes part in that sin and thereby risks his immortal soul." - p 51

[<(In the following speeches, each company may insert names of critics who have given them bad reviews.)

"TURTLE WOMAN: My dear, speaking of Madame de L. remonds me of Y. She came to me yesterday evening and if I had known that you weren't engaged, I'd have sent round to ask you to come. Madame M. turned up quite by chance, and recited some poems by Queen Ronald Tavel in the author's presence. It was too beautiful.

"MME TRYPHOENA: (Aside) What treachery! Of course. That was what she was whispering about to Madame B. and Madame de C. the other day. (Aloud) I had no engagement. But I should not have come. I heard M. in her great days, she's a mere wreck now. Besides I detest Ronald Tavel's poetry." - p 57

If Ludlam was even half as fun as his plays I'd imagine he was a fungi to hang out w/ it.

"I used to subsribe to Mothers' Monthly-it's a periodical. You write to the Department of Labor Pains, Washington D and C." - p 61

"TURZAHNELLE: (Resisting) A very simple calculation shows the impossibility of any species living off its own kind. Let us take man, for example. It takes about twenty years to raise a man, while an adult man will eat, though not exclusively, at least one man (average weight about 120 pounds) every sixty days (at the rate, therefore, of two pounds a day), this eating six men in a year. That means that while one man is growing up (in twenty years), he will have to eat 120 men." - p 77

Now, I remember when I was given that as a math problem in Elementary School that my calculations were a little different. For one thing, the average weight of a man is probably closer to 160 pounds - therefore more meals can be gotten out of one man. However, the average weight of a woman is considerably less. Therefore, eating men is preferable to eating women. This also serves the purpose of allowing more births. Of course, there then comes the problem of whether to raise the man to be eaten for a full 20 yrs or to fatten him as quickly as possible. It is true, however, that being a cannibal is extremely impractical. Even if one were to keep the women in a constant state of pregnancy & to eat the babies rather than take the time to raise them there's still a gross problem of 9 mnths pregnancy for 4 meals yielded. Of course, there're various ways around this such as inducing labor ahead of the 9 mnths but even that doesn't help much. Since in today's world the purpose of mass media seems to be to convert humans into vegetables perhaps there's a visionary plan to literally make that the case so that w/ genetic modification body parts can be harvested & then grown back. If human shit can be used as, at least, the fertilizer in wch the vegetable-humans grow then things become even more ecologically efficient. We'll have to ask Klaus Schwab & Bill Gates whether they have any plans along these lines that they're willing to divulge yet.

Next up, "The Grand Tarot".

"The game of cards called The Tarot, which the Gypsies possess, is the Bible of Bibles. It is the book of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, the book of Adam, the book of primitive Revelation of ancient civilizations.

"When we read Tarot cards, we see a drama unfold in which the hieroglyphic emblems of this old fortune-telling pack appear like actors. There are twenty-one numbered cards which comprise the Major Arcana and one unnumbered card, The Fool or zero, which is an arcanum unto itself. So I've contructed a play of twenty-two interchangeable scenes. Each scene represents a different card of The Tarot.

"Before each performance, we lay out the twenty-two cards. The order in which they fall determines the order in which the scens will be played. Taken as a narrative (the play is in epic tradition), we could say that the story is never the same twice. Asked a question, the play becomes an oracle. The sequence of scenes is everything." - p 85

"THE FOOL: (Dancing a jig) The Fool's motto is this: If you tell people the truth you'd better make them laugh or they'll kill you." - p 86

That's a hard goal to live up to, but one I thoroughly identify w/.

"THE FOOL: Good Madonna, why do you mourn?

"THE EMPRESS: Good Fool, for my brother's death.

"THE FOOL: I think his soul is in hell, Madonna,

"THE EMPTESS: I know his soul is in heaven, Fool.

"THE FOOL: The more fool you, Madonna, to mourn your brother's soul being in heaven. (Pointing to THE EMPRESS) Take away The Fool, gentlemen." - p 92

That's one of the perplexities of Christinanity, isn't it? One wd think that a Chistinane wd welcome having one of their loved ones murdered, e.g., b/c they'd believe that they'd gone to a better world, to heaven.

"(Handel's wedding march swells as MARRIAGE enters down the aisle personified an an hermaphrodite. The actor playing MARRIAGE is split down the middle. His left side represents the bride with half a bridal gown, veil, train, and bouquet. His right side represents the groom with half a tuxedo, mustache, and top hat. When one half of MARRIAGE speaks to the other half, the actor turns the appropriate side to the audience. This should create the illusion of there being two people.)

"MARRIAGE, HE: Will you marry me?

"MARRIAGE, SHE: Of course! (Aside) Silly boy! I wanted to marry him from the first time I laid eyes on him. But I thought I'd play it cool and cagey until he got the marriage idea himself.

"MARRIAGE, HE: Ocypris, loveliest of goddesses in heaven, keep modest my delights, all my desires lawful, so that I may have my part in love, but not in passion's madness." - p 94

Yes, but what about yr sex life?

"THE MAGICIAN: Why do you ask so many riddles?

"THE SPHINX: Why did the weather forecaster get bounced from his job? (THE MAGICIAN and THE FOOL shrug their shoulders) Because the weather didn't agree with him. You see? All of reality can be expressed in a riddle and all questions can be answered with one. Ah, the riddle! The unanswered question! (THE FOOL takes a fit) How do you keep a dog from going mad in August? Shoot him in July.

There's a picture of Mario Montez in 1969 (p 104) & another in 1970 (p 116).

"THE MAGICIAN: You will be held in contempt of court for withholding evidence. What is the great feminine secret?

"THE HIGH PRIESTESS: Emptiness! Emptiness! Emptiness! That is the great feminine secret! It is something absolutely alien to man: the chasm, the unplumbed depths, the yin. The Mothers, The Mothers, how eerily it sounds! Fall man happily into this pit! (Slaps her yoni)" - p 104

Montez is well-known to anyone who's watched Jack Smith & Andy Warhol films as the drag queen whose name is inspired my actress Maria Montez. A film festival of all Mario Montez films (esp is there're any of the Ludlam plays that s/he appeared in) not b/c of the acting (wch is beyond incompetent) but b/c of the costumes.

"THE MAGICIAN: (In pear-shaped tones) You're a very poor speaker." - p 115

Presumably the stage direction in the above is a reference to Erik Satie's "Trois morceaux en forme de poire" (Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear) (a 1903 suite for piano four hands).

Next play, "Bluebeard". Ludlam does more than dabble w/ 'classic' subjects, as will be noted more as this review goes along, including ones that've been themes for operas. In this case, "Bluebeard's Castle" by Bartok, one of my favorite operas (although there's very little similarity between Ludlam's play & the Bartok opera).

"SHEEMISH: Remember the House of Pain and hold your tongue. [( MRS. MAGGOT holds her tongue with her fingers.)] You have replaced the little glass tube. It looks exactly as it did before the little accident. Even the sticky liquid is the same color and viscosity. You and I are the only ones who know. Come, the guest room. And, Mrs. Maggot, forget about the past.

"MRS. MAGGOT: And think as I do, of the future." - p 118

"SHEEMISH: It's the first time meat has been seen in the palace in nineteen years.

"MRS. MAGGOT: Twenty for me! Twenty years and never any meat. I've withered. You fed yourself on the fat in your hump, didn't you? Ach. Ouf. (She is seized by a violent coughing fit) Swallowed the wrong way.

"SHEEMISH: Heaven has punished you, glutton. Stop before you eat the knives and the tablecloth.

"MRS. MAGGOT: My illness, not my sin! Look, Sheemish, a chicken! Ah, the drumstick! (With her mouth full) Those who have a stomach, eat; those who have a hump, glue thmeselves to keyholes.

"SHEEMISH: Watch what you say to me. My hump contains a second brain to think my evil thoughts for me. It hasn't forgotten the broken test tube and our little secret." - p 122

Personally, since I don't have a hump, I use somebody else's brain to think my evil thoughts for me but then I don't know what they are so they aren't much good. I guess their not being much good is what makes them evil.

"SYBIL: What, a play?

"RODNEY: Jolly!

"MISS CUBBIDGE: Write it yourself? You've a touch of erosion, I see, Baron. And yet you studied medicine?

"BLUEBEARD: I write for amusement only.

"MISS CUBBIDGE: Were you indoctrinated? I mean, did ou receive the doctorate? On what theme did you write your dissipation? Which degree did you receive?

"BLUEBEARD: I received the third degree." - p 123

It seems that the character of Miss Cubbidge was more than a bit inspired by Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals. & Bartok does make it in after all.

"Dramatic music from Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle begins to swell. - p 137

"BLUEBEARD: The time has come. The final stage of transmutation must be completed. Mars, God of War, and Venus, Goddess of Love, are confunct in the twelfth house. The house of change and transformation. Scorpio, which rules surgery and the genitalia, is at the zenith. This is the horoscope I have been waiting for. The signs are in perfect aspect. The third genital will be born under the most beneficient stars that twinkle in the heavens." - p 138

"RODNEY: (Spits in BLUEBEARD's face) I spit in your face.

"BLUEBEARD: Do you think that the envenomed spittle of five hundred little gentlemen of your mark, piled one of top of the other, could succeed in so much as slobbering the tips of my august toes? (He turns his back on RODNEY and, with the assistance of SHEEMISH ,begins unwinding the bandages that envelop SYBIL. When she is completely nude except for her fuck-me pumps, the genital begins to move)

"BLUEBEARD: Look, it's moving. It's alive. It's moving. It's alive! It's alive!

"(SYBIL moves like the Bride of Frankenstein, with stiff, jerking movements of the head and neck. First she looks at SHEEMISH' and screams with horror, then she looks at BLUEBEARD and screams with horror, then she looks at her new genital and growls with displeasure.)" - pp 138-139

That's where the advertisement from their sponsor ends & the play, proper, begins.

But this is ridiculous. Let's move on to something more serious, "Eunuchs of the Forbidden City".

"ORCHID: What perfume?

"LI LIEN YING: (Producing an exotic vial) This is a mixture if half-moon musk and teh fragrent oil of the mimosa treee. Rub it in the seven openings of your body. If you are loved tonight, these oils will make your love intoxicating. The Son of Heaven will find you irresistible." - p 146

"TSU HSI: It seemed to me you wanted to take the Seal yourself and usurp the Dragon Throne.

"PRINCE YI: This would be a disgrace to the Manchu Dynasty and a disgrace to China. It is now the task of a loyal Prince to sacrifice himself to reassure the Emperor and to wipe out his shame. O Flawless Jade, etch this in the cold green of your heart. Behold what I do! (Grasping his dagger with the point downward, he thrusts it into his eye, turns it around along his eyelids, and draws out the crimson eyeball, which he places on the ceremonial tray) Accept my crimsoned eyeball." - p 155

Some people just don't know when to quit. & what about a 17 yr old emperor?

"TSU HSI: Release your breath at once, you meathead, or I'll smakc your face.

"TSU AN: Sister, you must not strike the Son of Heaven.

"TSU HSI: Yesterday he blew up the Porcelain Pagoda of Mind-Nurture with his chemistry set!

"TSU AN: No, Sister, you are too hard on him. (In baby talk) T'ung Chih, if you give up your railroad train, Aunt Sakota will give you some of those sweetmeats you like made with pork drippings.

"TSU HSI: How can I make an emperor out of him when you spoil him by giving in to his every whim?" - p 160

But, but.. won't there be a revolution?

"PRINCE KUNG: The best way to hinder this revolution-and I say hinder because in truth a revolution cannot be completely stopped-is to confuse the public so that they cannot tell who are their friends and who are their enemies.

"TSU HSI: Is there no other way than that? Is there nothing else that we can do?

"PRINCE KUNG: The other way si to put chemicals in their food and drinking water. And to addict them to sugar and the milk of cows, butter, cream, and cheeses . . . these will render the people weak and feebleminded." - p 163

Now, imagine trying to get laid.

"A LU TE: It is time, Lord of Ten Thousand Years.

"T'UNG CHIH: Time for what?

"A LU TE: It is time for you to pluck my cherry blossom.

"T'UNG CHIH: Pluck your cherry blossom? What do you mean by that?

"A LU TE: It is time for you to drink the wine in my cup.

"T'UNG CHIH: What wine? What cup? What about your talking about?

"A LU TE: It is time for your horse to enter my valley.

"T'UNG CHIH: (Aside to LI LIEN YING) IS she crazy or is she drunk?

"LI LIEN YING: (Aside to A LU TE) Remove your robe. That should turn him on.

"A LU TE: (Slipping her robe down over her shoulders) It is time for you to find yourself in me and I in you.

"T'UNG CHIH: What do you want? Speak plain Chinese.

"A LU TE: I have come to make love. Roll in the hay. Get laid. Do the business. Fuckee fuckee. Get it?

"T'UNG CHIH: I've never done anything of this kind before. Are you a eunuch?

"A LU TE: No, something better. Something special. (She climbs on top of him) Feel anything?" - p 169

If that doesn't work, well..

"T'UNG CHIH: You are an obstacle to progress. I want to bring a new nation into being, modeled on the West. If we resist, the foreigners will carve up China. I have had a telephone installed in my pavilion on the Island of Fulfilled Desires.

"TSU HSI: Railroads, armies, wars, telephones, television, Muzak, pay toilets, automobiles, Blimpie bases, air pollution! No! No! No! I love my people. They are my subjects. For two hundred years the Dragon Throne will be ours." - p 172

You think I'm joking?

"AN TE HAI: Why don't you go out and get us a couple of two-thousand-year-old eggs, and make sure they're fresh." - p 174

Remember all the brouhaha about MSG? Here's the historical basis provided by none less than Charles Ludlam.

"TSU HSI: (Aside) Here is a powder made from the black lotus whose blossoms wave in the lost jungles of Gang Bang, where none but the numbskulled priests of Num Num dwell. This powder strikes dead all who taste it. It's called monosodium glutamate. I will put some of this on some sweet and pungent pork and bring it to Tsu An." - p 177

The use of make-up is the sign of a decadent civilization.

"TSU HSI: We are always very particular about our appearance. verything must be of the very best. You understand that widows are not supposed to wear powder or rouge but in our position, we must use it in spite of custom, in order that our complexion will not clash with our gown. This powder is a mixture of rice powder and lead. We have been told that very poor quantites of powder have a great amount of lead in them. Sometimes this makes the face very black. It would be an evil thing if our face were to turn black in the midst of an important audience, would it not?" - p 179

Once one has entered the Forbidden City, is it possible to ever escape it? Perhaps the only thing to do is to go hide in the corn.

"MAW: (Inside) No use tryin' to sell us encyclopedias . . . We cain't read.

"DUDE: I'm not selling encyclopedias.

"MAW: Well, whatever it is you're sellin', we don't want any. Besides, we've got no money. Even the burglars in these parts know that.

"DUDE: Mrs. McCoy, I'm afraid you're really sadly mistaken. I'm not a traveling salesman. Allow me to intrduce myself. My name is Dude Greaseman and I represent Lola Lola and The Lucky Stars.

"MELANIE: (Screams) Lola Lola and The Lucky Stars! Aaaaaaaaah!

"MAW: Melanie, get back. Don't have no truck with city slickers, hear?

"DUDE: We want to bring The Lola Lola Show to Hicksville to do a free country-western jamboree.

"MELANIE: (Screams) A free country-western jamboree! Aaaaaaaaah!

"MAW: Melanie, hush up. Landsakes, how can I hear what the man says with you caterwaulin' like a sow in heat. Well, mister, a free jamboree sounds real nice. But what's all this got to with me?

"DUDE: We want to hold it in your cornfield.

"MELANIE: In our cornfield! (Yells) Eeeeeyaaaahoooo! Let 'em do it, huh, Maw?" - p 188

A Lu Te shore is actin' p'culiar-like.

"DUDE: Why, this is a regular backwoods Romeo and Juliet!

"LOLA LOLA: And the poor kids just stand there, starin' at each other, cryin' their eyes out. I got an idea. I want to bring love and harmony to Hicksville." - p 193

"DUDE: This is not the Dark Ages. This is 1959!" - p 202

Lola Lola's scheme involves impersonating a dr w/ the matriarch of one of the feuding clans that's preventing their young'uns from fulfilling their romantic dreams.

"LOLA LOLA: How long has your arm been this way?

"MAW: How d'ye mean?

"LOLA LOLA: I'd have that arm off right away if I was you.

"MAW: Why?

"LOLA LOLA: Don't you see how it's sapping the strength from the other one?

"MAW: Yep, but I need my arm.

"LOLA LOLA: I'd have that right eye out too if I was in your shoes.

"MAW: Have my eye out?

"LOLA LOLA: Don't you see how bad it is for the other one? It's stealing all the vitamins. Take my advice and have it out as soon as you can. You'll see a lot better with the left." - p 204

Ruben (Romeo) & Rachel (Juliet) are united. Rachel, previously mute, is cured. It's a happy ending.. or is it?

"RUBEN: Listen, everybody, Aunt Priscilla has cured Rachel's dumbness!

"RACHEL: (Clearing her throat) You dosh burn little pinhead of misery you! Goll dang me if I think you're worth the powder to blow ya up! You peel them duds and git to work or else mosey right off'n this farm. Now see here, Ruben McCoy, I guess you thought that beciz I couldn't talk you was gonna git away with any tomfoolery. Well, you was sadly mistaken. You gonna git to work. Did you hear what I said? WORK! Now, I wanna take that cottage down by Picken's Nose. Moe an' Melanie are gonna take Maw's place. We'll git a little mortgage. A little down payment and monthly payments for the next thirty years." - p 218

Out of the "Corn" & into the popcorn, aka "Camille, A Travesty on La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas Fils" (1973).

"MARGUERITE: (To VARVILLE) I let you call on me when I'm in and wait for me when I'm out. But if you insist on talking of nothing but your love, I will withdraw my friendship.

"VARVILLE: What have you got against love?

"MARGUERITE: I have nothing against love. It just makes such dull conversation.

"VARVILLE: And yet, last year at Marienbad you did give me some hope.

"MARGUERITE: My dear, that was last year, that was Marienbad. I was ill; I was bored. But this is Paris and I'm very much better, and not at all bored." - p 224

Of course, the reference is to Robbe-Grillet's screenplay & to Resnais's film of it.. but you knew that, right?! Please tell me you knew that! [reviewer starts to blubber uncontrollably, loosens his bowels, removes them altogther, absent-mindedly uses them to wipe his face, realizes what he's done & gags to death - leaving this review to be finished by someone who writes according to the Chicago Manual of Style.]

This collection of plays does not live up to the standards set by William Shakespeare. The language is polluted by unacceptable levels of innuendo and does not treat serious subjects in the appropriately academic way. While Mr. Ludlam may think that his perversions should be accepted by those of us who have not yet yielded to depravi-AARGHGASPNO!

[Fortunately for the continuance of this review, the original reviewer has now stuffed his bowels back in, neatly sewed himself up & strangled the replacement reviewer w/ a bit of leftovers that he somehow missed putting back in but didn't really need]

"MARGUERITE: It's strange that you should come here to take care of me. I always thought that you were just a scatterbrain who cared for nothing but pleasure.

"GASTON: You were quite right." - p 246

Ludlam shocks us w/ a straight melodramatic ending.

"NANINE: (On her knees beside MARGUERITE) Much will be forgiven you, for you loved much. Toodle-oo, Marguerite.

"(Tableau vivant. All lights dim out leaving the little statue of the Madonna on Margierite's vanity in the flickering light of a votive candle.)" - p 251

I don't really mind that he had Marguerite die.. but "Toodle-oo"?! I feel uncomfortable w/ that. Then again, cdn't they've just put some "Hot Ice" on it?! They being:

"RAMONA MALONE, an attractive widow

"TANK IRISH, Chief of Euthanasia Police

"BUCK ARMSTRONG, radio expert of Euthanasia Police


"MISS ENRIGHT, Euthanasia Police matron

"MAX MORTIMER, president of The Cryogenic Foundation

"IRMTRAUT "MOMS" MORTIMER, a tough customer" - p 255

Fortunately, their gags were out.

"RAMONA: Yes, I have a scar here. (Indicates her neck)

"TANK: If you had your appendix out, why do you have a scar here. Your appendix was down there.

"RAMONA: I'm ticklish." - p 256

I love audience participation, even fake audience participation. I had people planted in the audience to throw underwear at HiTEC (Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative)'s premier in 2009.

"BUNNY: Aw Max, all you ever do is think about dead bodies. Why don't you go down and live at the morgue, instead of making a morgue of our home?

"WOMAN IN THE AUDIENCE: I suggest you just close the play down. (Actors onstage try to continue and ignore the interruption) I said stop this play!

"CHARLES: (In a stage whisper) Georg, keep going.

"WOMAN: No, don't keep on going.

"MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Would you please pipe down, lady.

"WOMAN: I won't! This play is evil and insensitive. (Screaming) You! Actors! Don't know what you're talking about!

"CHARLES: Would somebody please take this woman out so we can finish the play?

"BILL: (Trying to reason with him) Charles, no. Let's listen to what she has to say.

"CHARLES: (Sarcastic but giving in) Great, audience participation! My favorite theatrical device." - p 264

"NARRATOR: Audience members interested in its origin would be advised to compare with this production the earlier prototype upon which it was based-the Ur-Hot Ice of Snazzy Ripoffsky of the neo-futilist school of antidrama and his associate plagiarist Ungar Grateful. Each of whom represented opposing schools of futility: the Adamant and the disinterested, or Lethargic school. Of course, there were many crosses between the two: Adamant Lethargists and Lethargic Adamantives. But only the pure original concern us here. The Adamants were known for thei motto, "Detest the halfhearted, they rob life of its irony." While the Lethargists would take refuge in a monistic view, which was not wholly unlike fatalism except they were never willing to form a semantic attachment, however enobling it might be, from a public relations point of view. So, while the Lethargists have left little or no theory, their practice is visible everywhere. "Give me a hero without brains who can slug his way out of a jam with his two fists" is one of the few fragments representing their position on psychological drama.

"The monistic approach, rather than strive for a happy ending, tends to view all endings as happy." - pp 269-270

"(House lights begin to come up. WOMAN IN THE AUDIENCE and her MOTHER come racing down the aisle.)

"MOTHER: My daughter and I want to apologize for any trouble we may have caused you.

"WOMAN: We've decided to give the play a fair hearing.

"MOTHER: And just to show there are no hard feelings, I'm going to call bingo tonight.

[(She does. Bingo cards passed out with programs allow the audience to play for prizes throughout intermission.)] - p 269

In case that's not enuf thrills & innovations for you,

"NARRATOR: (Taking center stage) There are two possible endings to (Hot Ice). The Adamant ending and the Lethargic ending. Tonight the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, in the tradition that has made them famous, will once again go out on a limb, in defiance of gravity. Tonight we will present both possible endings." - p 276

Next up, "Stage Blood" in wch the drama of the unknown understudy appears.

"GIRL: (From the back of the house) Excuse me, Mr. Stone, but I know the role of Ophelia.


"GIRL: (Still from the back of the house) I know every line of it. I can do the "mad scene" for you, if you don't believe me. (Entering down in the aisle) "Where is the beauteous Majesty of Denmark?"" - p 286

&, then, y'know, there's the playwright who's never had a play produced.

"JENKINS: There were many playwrights in Shakespeare's own time-give or take a generation-who were far better than Shakespeare. Marlowe's mighty line, for instance, "And sooner shall the sun fall from its sphere, than Tamberlaine be slain or overcome." What of the forbidden love of John Webster's Duchess of Malfi, not to mention his invention of echo effects in the fifth act. Or Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling! Many scholars acknowledge these to be unique masterpieces, each one a distillation of an entire literary gift. These men wrote only a few plays, I have put everything into one!

"EDMUND: In other words, it's your first play!

"JENKINS: Well, I've got news for all of you.

"ALL: !!!!!!!

"JENKINS: The plays of Shakespeare were, in fact, never written by Shakespeare.

"HELGA: Really?!

"JENKINS: They were written by another playwright of the same name!" - p 290

There are, of course, multiple claims that Shakespeare's plays were written by someone other than Shakespeare. Ludlam's take on that is the funniest for me.

Edmund flubs his line as predicted by a Ouija board:

"EDMUND: Something is denten in the state of Rotmark. O, shit!" - p 295

& then there's a dig at Vienna. A friend of mine who lives there calls it "Weiner". She doesn't like it much either.

"CARL: All these hooks and eyes . . . I'll never make it. . . . Why can't we get any tights that fit?

"HELGA: You're not in New York now, darling, this is Mudville. Carl, why don't you get one of your tricks to do your sewing for you?

"CARL: It's so hard to meet anyone on the road, Mother.

"HELGA: Tell me about it.

"CARL: It could be worse, Mother. We could be in Vienna."

"HELGA: Carl, I told you never to mention Vienna to me again.

"CARL: Slowly I turn and inch by inch, step by step . . .

"HELGA: Ah, Vienna, the city of my nightmares. The only town we played where we had to go back to our hotel rooms to take a piss." - p 301

Do we have room to fit in repulsing Elfie?

"JENKINS: (Handing CARL a whiskey bottle half full) Here's the whiskey bottle you wanted. I found it in the prop room.

"CARL: I'll empty it. Do you have some tea?

"JENKINS: That's tea in it now. I know you don't drink.

"CARL: (Sniffs it) Tea!

"JENKINS: Rose hip . . . organic . . . vitamin C.

"CARL: Thank you, Jenkins, you're my right arm.

"JENKINS: But, tell me, what scene are you going to use it in?

"CARL: In a little scene I'm going to play right now. (Both listening to last of ELFIE's speech) Leave me alone with her."


"ELFIE: Please stop drinking! You have a performance to give.

"CARL: That's one of the highly guarded secrets of our profession. All actors are better drunk. (Belches)

"ELFIE: That's disgusting!

"CARL: What's disgusting about it? It's more constructive than what most people do when they're drunk.

"ELFIE: Here, take back your rabbit's foot.

"CARL: I never gave that to you.

"ELFIE: You did, but take it back. For to the noble mind, rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

"CARL: (Sarcastically) I saw the movie." - p 304

Did he see it b/c the theater was in the darkness?

"(Blackout. All the characters in the play grope about the stage in the darkness, carrying lighted candles.)

"JENKINS: (Announcing) Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand by. Remain seated. A fuse has blown.

"HELGA: (Voice in the dark) What's the matter?

"JENKINS: There's a short circuit.

"HELGA: Call wardrobe and have it lengthened. (If the audience moans, HELGA says, "Did you people come here for entertainment or revenge?")" - p 308

Love those anticipations of audience reaction.

Moving on to "Jack and the Beanstalk" (1975).

"(The style should be socialist realism. MRS. BEANSTALK is vacuuming. JACK comes in from school.) - p 318

A socialist realist fairy tale?! But is it Adamant or Lethargic?

"MAN-IN-THE-MOON: After the castle was all built and furnished and fitted out with every comfort and every luxury a real home should have and the giant was all settled in and cozy, he paid the workers all the money he had promised. And even paid theman extra bonus for ten years if they would defend his castle and make it safe from all enemies. But at the end of the ten years when they got the money he had promised, the people discovered that the prices had gone up incredibly and that the money the giant paid them could no longer buy the comforts they had dreamed of.

"JACK: Couldn't they still tear the castle down?

"MAN-IN-THE-MOON: No, they couldn't. The only way they could feed their families was by working to defend the castle they had built and the giant who had swindled them.

"JACK: That's horrible.

"MAN-IN-THE-MOON: Your father was one of those men, Jack. When he spoke out against the giant, the giant had him killed. And that's why you and your mother live in poverty." - p 322

"(With that JACK cuts through the last tendril of the beanstalk and the GIANT experiences the greatest crash since twenty-nine)

"JACK: (Climbing up on the GIANT, addresses a bunch of miserable louts below) My fellow countrymen. The cruel giant who enslaved and robbed you is dead. It was I, a mere nobody, who delivered you from his cruel oppression." - p 326

"JACK: (Looking around to see where the "him" is) Him? Mother, sit down. I think you're delerious with hunger. Let's get back to Bossie. To whom should I sell him?

"MOTHER: To the (Spelling) B-U-T-C-H-E-R.

"JACK: To the B-U-T-C-H-E-R?

"MOTHER: Yes, to the B-U-T-C-H-E-R.

"JACK: But, Mother, that spells butcher!

(BOSSIE, who has been trying to figure out what B-U-T-C-H-E-R spells, suddenly starts mooing with fear.)" - pp 318-319

Of course, Bossie actually killed the Giant & Jack took all the credit for it in a classic example of speciesism.

"Isle of the Hermaphrodites or the Murdered Minion" (1976) is next as we advance thru the yrs. One 'MACHIAVELLI" provides the "PROLOGUE". How did they get such an esteemed personage to participate?

"To keep them thinking in the theater

Farce tempo does the trick.

So if cruel things pass lightly here

It's to make you think and not to feel.

It's pain and not the cruelty that we fear

And time will always wound the heel." - pp 330-331

"CATHERINE: Ruggieri, you know my son is (Pregnant pause) that way?

"RUGGIERI: What way?

"CATHERINE: Women are more fond of him than he is of them.

"RUGGIERI: You mean he's queer?

"CATHERINE: As a square pizza. But it's not his fault. I think it's mine. I didn't want him to grow up to be like his father and torture his poor wife with a mistress. I impressed this on him at every chance I got. (Dubious pause) I'm afraid I overdid it. Now he won't look at a woman. Hates anything feminine. And spends his days with his minions.

"RUGGIERI: Those young men he hangs out with?


"RUGGIERI: I can hardly believe it, they're all excssivelt masculine.

"CATHERINE: That's always a dead giveaway. One in particular, Muggeroon, is a Protestant. I'm afraid he will convert the young king." - pp 331-332

There's plenty of gallows humor.

"2: The safest thing between you and me is hang him here upon this tree.

"1. Agreed.

"(They hang him from a tree and exit. Enter CATHERINE and GUISE strolling arm-in-arm under the tree.)

"GUISE: Well, Madame, how do you like our lusty Admiral?

"CATHERINE: He's very well-hung, I see.

"GUISE: That's what he gets for barking up the wrong tree.

"CATHERINE: But come, let's walk. The air's not very sweet here and there's another fruit I'd like to see in a tree where it belongs." - p 342

"Caprice or Fashion Bound" (1976).

Ludlam's cultural influences were obviously very wide. As such, every play has significantly differently content, despite the undercurrent of RIDICULOUSNESS.

"BODHISATTVA: But one so attained as yourself my choose his next incarnation. Who will you coose to be?

"HERMIT: I have lived a life of seclusion, balance, order, and reason. For my last life, I should like its opposite. I would like to lead people out of materialism. But in a diferent way. A way wholly unlike hermitage. I would like to bring frivolity to Mankind, know many people, take chances, risk everything, live as though I were Caprice itself!" - p 361

So how did we get from Bodhisattva & Hermit to this?:

"FEINSCHMECKER: Art? How can you talk about art? Look at this picture in today's paper. Hundreds of Irish patriots shot down in cold blood.

"ZUNI: Oh, my God! Harry, look at those sweaters they're wearing! I want an Irish sweater." - p 362

& then to here?!:

"CAPRICE: (Aside to the SCRUBWOMAN who has been working on the floor throughout the scene) Carlota?


"CAPRICE: How much did you pay for that hat you're wearing?

"SCRUBWOMAN: Two dollars and forty-nine cents on Fourteenth Street.

"CAPRICE: (Taking the hat) Here's a twenty. Get yourself half a dozen. (Throws the hat on the floor, stamps on it a few times, then places it on the baroness's head) Here you are, Baroness.

"ZUNI: (Admiring the hat in the mirror) That's what I want!" - p 365

"CAPRICE: I'm going to make a slingshot out of this brassiere and break all of Twyfford Adamant's windows! (He does so, shooting from his balcony) Fwapp! I invent no brassiere!

(The sound of shattered glass is heard off. CAPRICE burns his brassiere.)

"ADRIAN: (As though it were Veronica's veil) Look, the newspaper headline changed! It says, "No Brassiere."

"(The sound of a gong.)" - p 366

I'm really not telling you diddly-squat about what's going on here.

"CAPRICE: You'll never get away with it. There are some people who won't let you pull the rayon acetate over their eyes." - p 368

A dead sheep gathers no wool. That's why Ludlam makes a mistake. Can you find it before a deadly disease takes yr life?

"ZUNI: (Enters in sackcloth and ashes, a suppliant) Caprice, accept the penance of a votaress, nay, a slave of fashion. I have doffed and donned. Doffed my black cloth and sashes and donned my sackcloth and ashes. I bend my knees in supplication." - p 379

It shd be supplicant, duh. Did you die thinking about this?

"CAPRICE: I'll revolutionize the theater with smell-o-drama. Opera with an orchestra of atomizers. For every emotion . . . a different perfume!" - p 379

& to think you thought that John Waters invented Odorama for his 1981 film "Polyester". That tells you what's what.

"MARCEL: Yes, he is. But a gay monster is worth more than a sentimental bore." - p 389

The 2nd-to-last thing I expected next was a take-off of Wagner. "Der Ring Gott Farblonjet - A Masterwork" (1977). Coincidentally, I had just listened to all of Wagner's Ring Cycle from beginning to end recently & knew it like I knew the back of my knee.

"WELGUNDE: Genug! Du gibst mir ein schmerz in kooz. Garden sie das Gold your selbst! Ich will nicht das Gold garden! Ich gardet das Gold zu lang already!" - p 400

When I was, maybe, 15, maybe 1968ish, my stepfather-to-be took me to his hunting club for skeet shooting w/ a shotgun. That was fun. Adorning the walls of the club was an 8&1/2X11" sheet of paper w/ fake German on it. Maybe that was a post-WWII American thing that endured in the culture for awhile. Dunno. The ideo of partially redoing Wagner's Ring Cycle in fake German strikes me as PDF (Pretty Damned Funny). Ludlam was never lacking in ways to skew.


Aka the valkyrie.

"SIEGFRIED: Tellt mir, birdie now ich got ter ring und ter helmit und der treshoor. Vot do ich do mit it alles? Ach deres der rub! Vot's dot mit der indebendence? Hoompug! Shust as any odder schneak goes py te schweardavit and says a lie vot isn't so much troot as a dinner mitout gabbage. Das is der indebendence, mein frients! Life, liperty, und bersuit of happiness isn't so mit a cent's wort!" - p 424

For those of you w/ short attn spans who're fake-German-challenged, I provide this translation:

SIEGFRIED: Tell me, birdie now that you have the ring and the helmet and the treasure. What will you do with it all? Aye there's the rub! What's that with your independence? Humbug! Just as any other sneak answers the affidavit and says a lie what isn't so much truth as a dinner without cabbage. There is your independence, my friends! Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness isn't worth a cent!

Next up (or down), "A Ventriloquist's Wife - A Psychodrama for Cabaret" (1978). One of my best friends is a ventriloquist. He's great to have around at a shy person's party b/c he can do the talking for everyone & even get people to agree to sex who'd be too terrified to do so on their own. As such, I'm always interested in ventriloquist stories.

"VENTRILOQUIST: Baby, I've found it. No more schlepping! No more weddings! No more birthday parties. No more Elks lodge! No more girdle manufacturer conventions! No more being hailed by millions just because I'm driving a cab." - p 443

The typical ventriloquist story, of course, has the figure be more than just a dummy, the figure comes alive & dominates & ruins the ventriloquist's life.

"WALTER: (Laughs, screams) Ego über alles!

"VENTRILOQUIST: No, Walter, no. You'll never get away with this. I'm the ventriloquist and you're the dummy.

"WALTER: How dare you? I am a ventriloquial figure, and don't you ever forget it. You're washed up, Ludlam. I don't need you anymore.

"VENTRILOQUIST: (Possessed) No, Walter. It is I who don't need you. You're getting back in your trunk. And Susan and I will do an act together!

"WALTER: (Screaming) Take your hands off me! Help! Murder! Police! Just for that, I am never going to speak to you again as long as you live. (WALTER becomes inanimate)" - p 452

This is the 1st (& only?) of Ludlam's plays where the actors 'play themselves'. What's the meaning of this?!

On to "Utopia Incorporated" (1978).

"Cast of Characters

"ANARCH, President of Utopia

PHYLLIS, his daughter

CAPTAIN JONH GULLIBLE, a smuggler of forbidden substances

BOTCHUP, his native guide

ROSALBA, High Priestess of the Happy Isle

MARTOK, Grand Wazir of the Fire Cult

HYACINTH, an hermaphrodite, minion of Rosalba

ROBERTA, the robot


"VOICE OF CAPTAIN JOHN GULLIBLE: Ship's log (give date). Call me Gullible. Captain John Gullible. For a longer time now than I'd care to remember, whenever my spirits are high or my cash is low, I take to smuggling gold . . . no, not mineral gold, but Jamaica gold, that's marijuana, the ha-ha weed, and hashish, the subtlest of all the hallucinogenic drugs. This occupation brought me into peril of my life more than once. But I'm the type of poor devil who was never meant to run in another man's rat race." - p 458

Can't help but think of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" &, in turn, Jill Johnston's "Gullibles Travels" (1973). Johnston wd've probably been well-known to Ludlam given that she was an arts critic for The Village Voice & a lesbian. Unbeknownst to me, prior to looking up "Gullible's Travels" for this review, there have been many works of that name including a bk by Ring Lardner from 1917.

"BOTCHUP: The anchors are working, sir. Shall I get them inboard?

"GULLIBLE: Strike nothing but lash everything. The winds rise but they haven't gotten me yet. Blow! Blow! Ha! Ha! Ha1 Ha! By masts and keels, be quick about it! Ho glue pots! Ha! Ha! You bastards, blow! I'm not afraid of drowning!

"BOTCHUP: You've got nothing to worry about. Destiny has marked you for the gallows!

"GULLIBLE: Loftiest trucks are made for wildest winds! And this brain truck of mine now sails among the cloud scud! Shall I strike that? Oh, none but cowrds send down their brain trucks in tempest time.

"BOTCHUP: Oh Lord! What will I do? The captain's gone mad. I'll test his sanity." - p 460

Something or another happens to them. Enter the Happy Isle.

"BOTCHUP: Thank you. Thank you. You've been very kind. (To GULLIBLE)> Boy, it's good to have my feet on vice versa again.

"GULLIBLE: You don't mean vice versa; you mean terra-cotta." - p 461

More malapropisms. Everyone knows they mean terra-cottage cheese. But let us talk no further of anything but the Hollow Earth.

"ANARCH: My boys, you've stumbled on Utopia. We have evolved a civilization far superior to any heretofore known under the earth's inner sun. (Activates inner sun)

"GULLIBLE: You mean the earth is hollow? And that is the inner sun?

"ANARCH: It is. But tell me, Traveler from Outer Earth, you know the outisde world well then?


"ANARCH: You could give us invaluable information. No Utupian had ever seen the outside of the world.

"GULLIBLE: Tch, tch, tch.

"ANARCH: Have you gone up the Rhine?

"GULLIBLE: Climbed it to the top.

"ANARCH: Seen the Lion of Saint Mark?

"GULLIBLE: Fed it.

"ANARCH: And visited the Black Sea?

"GULLIBLE: Filled my fountain pen there. (Changing the subject) This scenery here is just heavenly." - p 466

Ludlam's not above poking fun at the male ego.

"GULLIBLE: What did you think of Phyllis?

"BOTCHUP: She didn't seem that intelligent.

"GULLIBLE: Yeah, she didn't pay any attention to me, either. (Exits)

The gallows humor marches on.

"GULLIBLE: What are you views on capital punishment?

"PHYLLIS: I believe in capital punishment. But I don't think women should be hung like men." - p 471

"BOTCHUP:" [..] "Why, the High Priestess and I had sex seventy times last night.

"GULLIBLE: Seventy times! How's that possible?

"BOTCHUP: Once in bed and sixty-nine of the floor." - p 473

Oh, that's cheating. The Supermale can do better than that.

"ROSALBA: He has a mind of his own.

"HYACINTH: Who else would want it?

"ROSALBA: He's smarter than he looks.

"HYACINTH: He'd have to be.

"MARTOK: (Defending ERUNAM) What he lacks in intelligence, he makes up in stupidity." - p 474

No doubt you, dear reader, immediately realized that "ERUNAM" is "MANUFACTURE" spelled backwards. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? B/c, if you are, you might want to clean your hands afterwards.

"ROSALBA: Come, let us go to dinner. You (To GULLIBLE) will sit on my right hand and you (To BOTCHUP) will sit on my left hand.

"BOTCHUP: How will you eat? Through a tube?" - p 475

That reminds me of this scene in Evelyn Waugh's "Black Mischief" as recounted in my review of same:

"As noted before, "misunderstanding rules the day" & I imagine that Waugh witnessed a fair amt of language barrier confusion at work when he was in Africa. One incident that I found particularly amusing is one in wch one of the visitors against cruelty to animals is offered an alcoholic beverage. She declines, saying thet she 'never drinks' - an expression easily understood in some cultures to mean she 'never drinks alcohol' but taken here more literally:

"""Mon bonne homme," said Dame Mildred severely, "il vous faut comprendre que nous ne buvons rien de tout, jamais"; an announcement which considerably raised their prestige among the company; they were not much to look at, certainly, but at least they knew a thing or two which the Azanians did not. A useful sort of woman to take on a journey, reflected the Lord Chamberlain, and inquired with polite interest whether the horses and camels in their country were as conveniently endowed." - p 200"

"GULLIBLE: Just as in the Old Testament when the Lord smote women of ill fame for trying to make a prophet.

"HYACINTH: Is that so?

"GULLIBLE: Why even today when a semiliterate street walker unwittingly approaches a detective, her proposition ends in a sentence.

"HYACINTH: Fascinating! And do flautists lay aside their flutes and listen when a prostitutes?" - p 477

Only when they play the skin flute.

"HYACINTH: What's an atheist?

"BOTCHUP: It's a person with no invisible means of support." - p 479

Insert laughter of Doodles Weaver here.

"PHYLLIS: I'm afraid! I read in a book once about a woman in my position who left and aged terribly. I didn't want to tell you this, Gullible. We don't die . . . . I am three thousand years old!

"GULLIBLE: But I like older women! Forget the differences in our ages. We were meant for each other.

"PHYLLIS: How old are you?

"GULLIBLE: Thirty-five.

"PHYLLIS: Take advantage of a mere child of thirty-five? I'd feel like I was robbing the cradle." - p 482

It's b/c of awkward situations like the above that I only hint at my age by mentioning hanging out w/ the Wandering Jew on the day he was cursed.

"HYACINTH: (Entering as secretary) Mr. Chup, Mr. Jones wants to know if you are going to pay up his account.

"BOTCHUP: Tell him no.

"HYACINTH: He says that if you don't pay him, he'll tell al your other creditors you did.

"BOTCHUP: Tell him the check is in the mail!" - p 486



I skip over "The Enchanted Pig - A Fairy Tale for the Disenchanted" (1979) entirely & go straight to "A Christmas Carol - Adapted from the Novel by Charles Dickens" (1979). I must admit (NO! Please don't make me!) that Ludlam surprised me w/ this one. It's a fairly conventional rendering of the Dickens. I'm actually touched (or is it "tetched" that he made a family friendly crowd pleaser seasonal repeater type of thingie.

"He had often spoken of modeling The Ridiculous Theater Company after modern dance troupes such as those of Marth Graham and Merce Cunningham (see my review of Carolyn Brown's "Chance and Circumstance": ); now the plan was to emulate the New York City Ballet, with A Christmas Carol serving as the company's Nutcracker, providing an annual Christmas bonus at the box office. Unfortunately, the unavoidably large cast made a mockery of this scheme, monetarily, and the production was dropped after its second season." - p xvii

When they say Break a leg! as a well-wishing cliché before someone goes on stage they always forget the cost of the cast. I move on to "Reverse Psychology - A Farce" (1980).

"ELEANOR: (Laughs devilishly) So what if I did? I'm so happy it's almost insane. I'm insanely happy.

"LEONARD: You associate happiness with being insane. That's interesting.

"ELEANOR: You're right. I'd rather be mad. Being sane is so boring. Don't you agree?

"LEONARD: No, I don't think being sane is boring. I think being sane is fun. And I know a thousand insane people who are bores.

"ELEANOR: How do you know a thousand insane people?

"LEONARD: My work.

"ELEANOR: You're a waiter?

"LEONARD: No. I'm a psychiatrist." - p 547

"KAREN: Have you ever tried making love in a different setting?

"ELEANOR: Yes, we went to a nudist colony once to air our differences." - p 553

I use an air conditioner for that. More dramatic people prefer an air dire.

"KAREN: Think back, Eleanor, to when you were a little girl. Think back to when you first began to procrastinate.

"ELEANOR: It all began when I was eleven years old. My Angora cat got run over. I remember there was this blood all over everything. That morning I had my first period." - p 554

She was unstoppable before that.

"KAREN: My God, you think you have problems? This patient of mine is really bananas. He is so totally fixated on his mother that she withholds his methadone when he doesn't do what she wants. (Laughs) Really, it's idiotic. He wanted to watch a ball game on TV, and she wanted to watch something else, so she wouldn't let him have his methadone, and he went into convulsions, It's no wonder the guy is completely impotent with women. The only woman he was ever able to come with was his sister, and (Laughs again) really, this will kill you, she's only twelve years old. The whole case is ludicrous and pathetic. One time, his mother caught him fooling around with the family dog! And he's thirty years old. Can you believe it? It's really sick. (Laughs) But, I guess it takes all kinds to make a world. But let's get back to you." - p 555

It's really unprofessional for her to talk about her son that way.

"LEONARD: They're not using straightjackets anymore. They're using chemical restraint. And you'd know if you'd read the professional journals instead of Redbook!

"KAREN: You're just jealous because they published my short story and rejected yours.

"LEONARD: It's easier for a woman to get published today. They all want women authors. It used to be blacks. Next it will be gays. It's hopeless for a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male. We're just effete and genetically debilitated. An oppressed majority. The pallid afterglow to the sunset of Western civilization. All there is left for us now is jogging." - p 565

There's always becoming a serial killer. Publishers & the public both eat that shit up.

"KAREN: Well, as a concession to pleasure and your need for role-playing, we'll have intercourse the night I insert the Olympic athlete sperm into myself. But you must wear a contraceptive.

"LEONARD: (Sarcastically) Great! Why don't you wear a coil?

"KAREN: I can't. Every time I cross my legs the garage door opens. But we must be careful because if the contraceptive were to break we might getthe sperm mixed up." - p 567

Why? Why not just let the sperm fight it out & let the best sperm win? But let's talk about something nice, let's talk about art, shall we?

"FREDDIE: My work will never sell.

"KAREN: Why not?

"FREDDIE: (Contemptuously) Because people don't want to see the truth. They want pretty pictures. Well, they can get someone else to paint their pretty pictures for them! Because I won't! Oh, sometimes I wonder why I don't just give up the struggle. I may as well just go and get a job.

"KAREN: Freddie! I won't have you talking that way. These are wild, rash words. You're just trying to worry me.

"FREDDIE: I'm sorry.

"KAREN: Now look at this picture you just tore up. It's very nice.

"FREDDIE: Very nice! That describes it all right. Very nice.

"KAREN: The pictures of yours I like best are the ones where you can tell what it's a picture of." - p 569

All this time have you been waiting impatiently to find out what the relevance of the play's title is? Has yr leg been twitching, have you been scratching yr head more than it itches? Well, yr moment has come.

"KAREN: It's medicine. It's been tested on hundreds of cases and has proven virtually one hundred percent effective.

"LEONARD: What is it?

"KAREN: It's called R.P.


"KAREN: Reverse Psychology.

"ELEANOR: I thought reverse psychology was when you tell a person to do the opposite of what you want them to do knowing that they'll do the opposite just to be stubborn or independent.

"KAREN: That's right. Only this does the same thing chemically.

"LEONARD: I don't get it.

"KAREN: R.P. makes you strongly attracted to the person you would normally be least attracted to." - p 580

That might replace rufies. &, on that note, let's move on to "Love's Tangled Web" (1981).

"RAEANNE: Botany, zoology, and the ecology. He was interested in the way it all fits together. How all different living things are interdependent. Do you know he built a methane tank and for a whole summer we cooked our food on gas from decomposing matter?

"SYLVIA: You cooked your food togther?

"RAEANNE: It was part of a reforstation project in Yosemite. I didn't think we could survive three months in a one-room cabin with no electricity-but we did. On cold nights we'd just get under the covers and read to each other. After a while I didn't even miss the television.

"SYLVIA: I can imagine that you didn't. But Raeanne what did your parents think about your living alone with a man in the woods?

"RAEANNE: Oh, they accepted it. After all, we are going to get married anyway.

"SYLVIA: Raeanne, I think I am going to set your hair on fire after all." - p 598

So Sylvia sets Raeanne's hair on fire but manages to put it out before she's seriously hurt & thusly gets the job in forest fire control. Remember that tactic the next time you're applying for a job. Ahem. Ok, I twisted the meaning selfishly in order to make my own narrative. Forgive me my little turtledove.

"SYLVIA: It was vile.

"EVE (Hurt) I was just trying to be creative. I did try my best. I'm sorry that no one liked my dinner. And I'm sorry that none of you wants to be adventurous.

"SYLVIA: Mother, there's adventurous and then there's slime. That meal was slime." - p 602

When I was a child you either ate yr slime & thanked yr goddamn mother for it or got beaten w/ a bear trap naked in front of the whole village. Those were the days that really put backbone in you (or ripped it depending on how severe the beating was).

"BERTIE: Mind? He laps it up! He's a masochist. Anyone would have to be to put up with Sylvia.

"BRAM: (Reentering) Sylvia says that from now on she wants all her food sent from Davey Jones's Locker.

"PASTOR: Well, she certainly has good taste. That's the best seafood restaurant on the North Shore. But it's miles away!

"BRAM: Also from now on she'll only dine of cold lobster tails in their shells and drink champagne. And she wants someone to taste every dish in her sight before she eats it.

"BERTIE: What, is she afraid we'll poison her?

"BRAM: Yes.

"EVE: This is the limit! We can't go on waiting on her like this. We'll never have any time for ourselves.

"BRAM: Excuse me, Mrs. Woodville. But I could wait on Sylvia. You wouldn't even have to pay me. I can drive. I could fetch her meals." - p 605

But, most importantly, he can stuff her turkey. The following is what some might call melodramatic but what I call melocomedic.

"BRAM: No, Sylvia. You were supposed to leave the key under the doormat, your answer under the statue. I came and found the door barred against me, the windows shuttered.

"SYLVIA: You're being very theatrical.

"BRAM: I assumed the answer was no.

"SYLVIA: (Breaks down and tells the truth) It wasn't my fault. My mother guessed I was pregnant. I was so frightened I blurted out a confession. They took me away before I had time to tell you.

"BRAM: Pregnant? Are you sure you were the mother?


"BRAM: Did you have to tell the truth?" - p 615

Don't you just love it when the author substitutes an 'impossibility' for the preditcable sentence completion? Such as in "I came and found the door barred against me, the windows shuttered" instead of the more cliché "I came and found the door barking against me & the windows shuddering in sympathy." Anyway, as we all know, any self-respecting story has to have a gorilla. Ask Curt McDowell & George Kuchar.

"PASTOR: Gorilla? No, officer. We haven't seen any gorilla, When did it escape? Well, I certainly hope you catch it. Check the hedges down by the drive. Dangerous, eh? I'll be sure to lock all the doors and windows. Thank you. Good night.

(During the previous speech, GORILLA appears at French doors, opens them, and enters)

"SYLVIA: (Voice from upstairs) Bram, is that you? (GORILLA goes upstairs) Oh, Bram . . . Oh, oh.

(PASTOR, returning from off left, see French doors left ajar and close them. He tiptoes yo the door of bedroom up center and knocks softly.)

"PASTOR: (Whispering) Slyvia. Sylvia.

(Door opens. BERTIE in drag as Sylvia, comes out wearing a veil and hiding behind a fan. PASTOR chases her around the sofa and back into the room. EVE enters sleepwalking. She opens the door to the balcony and goes out, balancing precariously out on the balustrade, as in Act I. A flashlight shines up into her face.)

"RAEANNE: (Voice) Mrs. Woodville!

"(EVE teeters and falls off the balcony. RAEANNE enters with EVE in her arms and goes to couch.)

"Thank heavens you caught me. I would have ruined the rhododendrons. Raeanne, I've been sleepwalking more and more lately. I keep dreaming about my late husband. Do you think he's trying to contact me?" - pp 620-621

Is that enuf excitement for you? Never a dull moment w/ Charles Ludlam. Next up is "Secret Lives of the Sexists - The Farce of Modern Life" (1982) & who shd be acting in this one? None other than BalTimOre's popular John Waters star, Mink Stole!!

"ZENA: Let me go back to where I was and what I was.

"BUDDY: I'd never let you go back to your old life. Not when I'm so close to fulfilling one of Nadine's lifelong dreams, to be reunited with her real mother.

"ZENA: I'm sure that when Nadine dreamed of her mother I'm not what she had in mind. I'm so afraid she'll be ashamed of me.

"BUDDY: Because you went on the stage?

"ZENA: Because I went on the stage naked.

"BUDDY: Nadine is a mature adult. She'll probably get a kick out of knowing that you were a stripper.

"ZENA: I prefer the word "ecdysiast." It lends tone.

"BUDDY: Nadine will be thrilled to have such a colorful mother." - p 634

Ludlam really knows how to lay on the melocomedic thick.

"IZZY: Not really. Fanny will come into a small fortune when she has her first child. That was a provision of her father's will.

"BUDDY: How much?

"IZZY: It's in excess of two hundred thousand dollars.

"BUDDY: And all you have to do is get Fanny pregnant?

"IZZY: That's right.

"BUDDY: Well what are you standing there for, man? Go to it. Make your fortune. What are you waiting for?

"IZZY: Not so fast.

"BUDDY: You're going to have to wait nine months to collect anyway. The sooner you get started the better.

"IZZY: I don't feel it.

"BUDDY: You don't have to feel it. Just think of it as making a deposit in a bank.

"IZZY: You're being callous.

"BUDDY: I make seventeen thousand a year reaching and take care of the other free. Why two hundred thousand dollars is more than Secretariat got. I'd do it in a minute if I were in your shoes.

"IZZY: Then why don't you?" - p 637

Secretariat, as I'm sure most of you remember, was an elephant that won a wrestling match against a crocodile & a hippopotamus tag-team.

"ZENA: As I will be interviewing several pplicants for this position, I'd like to take notes on your qualifications. I hope you don't mind?

"PHIL: Go right ahead.

"ZENA: You see the Swan isn't going to be just another beauty parlor. I want it to be a spa and health club as well. A place right here in the city where a woman can get away from it all and feel like she's vacationing, even if only for a few hours out of her otherwise busy day. So you see I'll need a man of some versatility to keep my customers happy. Are you versatile?

"PHIL: Oh yes. Very.

"ZENA: Would you call yourself a jack-of-all-trades?

"PHIL: Well I wouldn't call myself that. But other people have called me that.

"ZENA: I'm looking for an expert on physical culture. Do you know the body?

"PHIL: Every nook and cranny of it.

"ZENA: Really?

"PHIL: Yes, I know it like a know the back of my hand.

"ZENA: You have wonderful hands. Do you give massages?

"PHIL: Yes I give both licensed and unlicensed massages.

"ZENA: Do you have any dance background?

"PHIL: Ballet, acrobatic, and tap. Two years of modern-Martha Graham technique. Yoga, aerobic, and anaerobic exercise. I hold a brown belt in karate and I belong to the Balkan Men's Chorus. I was awarded master breeder status by the American Catfish and Loach Association for spawning the blue-nosed plecostomus. I give private instruction on guitar, mandolin, and ocarina. My hobbies are needlepoint, stamp collected, and building ships in bottles." - p 641

Yes, but can you disassemble a nuclear missile in free fall using Cunningham technique?

"FANNY: It's just like those plays in the 1950s where the homosexual commits suicide at the end.

"BUDDY: I love those plays. Why don't they do them like that anymore?

"FANNY: They still do over at Circle Rep." - p 654

Ok, that's an in-joke I'm not likely to get. Presumably it's a dig at the Circle Rep theater for presenting an old-fashioned version of queer culture as a doomed tragic aberration.


"Scene I: <The rally of Women Against Stenography.

"(There is a dais for speech-making. An American flag. A feminist banner. The background has slogans in Gregg and Pittman shorthand as well as this inscription in speedwriting, "i u cn rd ths u shd ern mo pa.")

Ha ha! I can read that & I DO deserve more pay so it looks like I have a new cause!

On to a new play, "Exquisite Torture - A Romantic Ecstacy" (1982):

"SOLANGE: Well, this is all very interesting. And you say the Count hasn't found another woman in all these seven years?

"FRANK: Madame, he's only flesh and blood. But I can assure you of this. Ever since the disappearance of Mademoiselle Solange, wll other women have been mere ironies to him.

"SOLANGE: This is a strange coincidence. Seven years ago I became the victim of amnesia.

"FRANK: So that explains it." - p 675

"Scene 2: Southern California.

(A surrealist desert landscape. NERONI is sleeping under a cactus, dreaming. He appears to himself as in an actor's nightmare. He keeps forgetting his lines and having to be prompted.)" - p 688

"(He passes out. [Policeman enters, gives NERONI a clunk on the head, take strongbox.] TOINETTE appears as the ghost of Agrippina lamenting some long-forgotten woe in pig latin. Far in the distance, she traverses the width of the stage silhouetted against the cyclorama.) - p 689

You don't see that every day; every other day, maybe.

"NERONI: The service is none too good here. Waiter? (The waiter comes, his head enclosed in a birdcage) Waiter? Where is that waiter? Waiter?" - p 693

"BARBARA: You sound depressed.

"NERONI: It's nothing.

"BARBARA: It's probably low blood sugar. You should see my doctor. I have a wonderful doctor. He did wonders with my liver, and I have the worst liver in the world!

"RHEA: Muriel Fenchurch's liver is much worse than yours.

"BARBARA: Muriel Fenchurch's liver can't compare with mine. My live is much worse than Muriel Fenchurch's! (The waiter opens the bottle of champagne with a pop, pours it. BARBARA <oasts) To us! No, that's not good enough. You propose a toast.

"NERONI: I'm no good at toasts.

"BARBARA: Go ahead and try. I'm sure you'll come up with something fascinating.

"NERONI: Here's to love, the only fire against which there is no insurance!

"BARBARA: You're right. You're no good at toasts." - p 694

My liver's fine, thank you for asking.

On to "Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde - A Comedy Ballet After Moliere" (1983)

"(There is a great cacophony played by an assemblage of instruments such as balloons from which the air is is emitted to make them "sing," a radiator which clangs and hisses, occasionally letting off steam, some bells, gamelan, drinking glass piano, an electric violin, pogo 'cello, spoons, and anything else that might pass for an avant-garde instrument. [Three chandeliers rise from the floor ro the ceiling. A chair in the shape of a hand adorns the set])" - p 699

Even tho this is parody, it immediately endears the play to me b/c I love avant-garde music. In particular, his specifying "pogo 'cello" is fabulous. A pogo 'cello aka a Devil's Fiddle is something I have one of. I hope to someday form a whole ensemble around them.

"CHOREOGRAPHER: Although I think that serial music is just a bit passé. I mean it's sort of stuck back there in the muck of Modernism. I consider myself to be much more advanced. I am a Postmodern.

"COMPOSER: You mean you are a Futurist?

"CHOREOGRAPHER: No the future was over by the early thirties.

"COMPOSER: Well I am a Postpostmodernist.

"CHOREOGRAPHER: And what may I ask is that?

"COMPOSER: A Neomodernist.

"CHOEOGRAPHER: (Indignantly) Hurmph!

"COMPOSER: When Postmodernism dies, a Modernist revival ensued. (Triumphantly) And we're right back where we started!" - p 699

Now, as a person who's slid in & out of mvmts w/ the well-greased ease of a gigelow I appreciate the above discussion tumescently. Given that the 5th International Neoist Apartment Festival, of wch I was a participant, was from March 15-21, 1982, it's quite likely that Ludlam was inspired by us since nothing else wd've been on the tips of the tongues of New Yorkers for at least a yr after that.

"MR. FOUFAS: Now what I want to say in the latter is, "Fair mistress, I am dying for love of your beautiful eyes!" But I want it to be put in a more original way, so that it sounds avant-garde, you understand. What should I do?

"HACK: Well, you could say, "The trantric synergetic epiistasis emanating from your corneas produces synaptic signals of affinity which threaten a thrombosis of my auricles and ventricles."" - p 706

I'm reminded of the "Pornalyzer", an app that was online 21 yrs ago that enabled one to take a txt & transform it into pornography. I used it in a movie of mine called "Cuntralia". It didn't really 'work', if the aim was to arouse an oiling of the notch, but it was somewhat funny. Mr. Foufas is a wealthy man who's stumbled onto avant-garde art as something to wrench him out of his bourgeois existence & the avant-gardists who are looking for funding find him very appealing. His wife & daughter, however, aren't converted to his vision & the daughter wants to marry someone whose conventional ways & means Mr. Foufas sternly disapproves of.

"MR. FOUFAS: Never! I'd rather see my daughter rotting with syphilis in an African brothel than tied to a tedious beer-swilling bourgeois who believes what he reads in the papers.

"VIOLET: Nice talk.

"MRS. FOUFAS: What would you have her do?

"MR. FOUFAS: Why marry a starving artist, of course, and live a bohemian life. I have a husband picked out for her already, Moderna 83. He's one of the best graffiti artists working today in the Independent line. It will be her destiny to carry his spray cans and serve as a lookout for the Transit Police." - p 709

"MODERNA: Doy doy.

"MR. FOUFAS: What's that?

"HACK: He says that he could tell the moment he met you that you were a man of rare intelligence and understanding. That you were not only a great patron, but one of those rare spirits who are utterly ahead of their time. A suberb judge of creative work and a harbinger of a new age of cultural achievement!

"MR. FOUFAS: "Doy doy" meant all that?

"HACK: That's one of the great things about Newspeak. You can express a lot in a few words." - p 711

But, of course, the great skill is to express nothing whatsoever in many words while seeming to say something important.

(COMPOSER enters, sits at a table with a crystal goblet half filled with water, dips his finger into water, and runs it around the rimof the glass until it sings. This sound continues until the end of the entertainment.

MODERNA enters in Greek costume, wearing a mask and buskin, carrying a lyre and a cage with a live chicken in it. The cage has a roll of sheet music attached. As the sheet music is pulled through the cage, the chicken's footprints becomes notes of music, which presumably the composer presumably is playing. MODERNA draws the sheet music across the full length of the stage, in front of the dining table. Then the COMPOSER begins to chant and drone eerily, modulating off of the tone of the drinking glass.

The CHOREOGRAPHER enters, does skipping and spinning in place, and the COMPOSER sets off a mechanical monkey which clangs cymbals through the rest of the scene.[)] - p 719

Presumably, this is a parody of a Cunningham dance company performance, perhaps written w/ at least a little envy of Cunningham having finally reached significant acclaim & funding. Be that as it may, it seems like a really fun performance to me.

A prank is played on Foufas to enable his daughter Violet to marry the man she loves.

"(Reenter HACK with VIOLET, disguised as Translator, NEWTON as Nicky Newfangle, and MODERNA as himself)

"VIOLET: Mr. Foufas, I'd like you to meet Nicholas Newfangle, the artist of the future. Nicky Newfangle, Rufus Foufas.

"MR. FOUFAS: I'm overcome.

"NEWTON: (Barks like a dog; makes sounds of footsteps in a corridor; creaking hinge, closing door; a woman's scream)

"VIOLET: Mr. Newfangle says he is privileged to meet a man who exceeds the highest tatses of his day.

"NEWTON: (Distant train whistle; chug-a-chug-a; sea gulls; waves on shore; water dripping; steak escaping from a radiator pipe)" - p 722

Next up, "Galas - A Modern Tragedy" (1983).

"POPE: Deus benedicte tutti homine.

"PRELATE: Forgive me, Your Holiness. It is very well to bless all men. But do you think you could expand your blessing to include women as well?

"POPE: Deus benedicte tutti homine et tutti dame.

"PRELATE: With your permission, Your Holiness. It would perhaps be better if you could make a more general and all-inclusive blessing.

"POPE: Deus benedicte tutti homine, tutti dame, et tutti fruitti." - p 746

Very funny, smart ass.

"POPE: Your achievement in this opera is very great. All the greater perhaps because of all operas Wagner's are the most difficult to sing.

"GALAS: Not really. The operas of the bel canto repertoire make far greater vocal demands. Wagner's operas are relatively easy.

"POPE: But Wagner's operas were conceived on a far grander scale. His myhtic heroes demand a greater emotional range.

"GALAS: Nonsense. Why, there is more true feeling on any page of Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, or Bellini than there is in all the bombast and rhetoric of the Ring." - p 747

Who wdn't like a play in wch an opera singer argues opera w/ the Pope?!

"ILKA: Well, I'm writing a profile on Magdalena for Time magazine. I'd like to help my readers distinguish the real Magdalena from the legends that spring up around her. We all know Magdalena the artist. But what about Magdalena, the woman.

"MERCANTEGGINI: What do you want to know?

"ILKA: Well, her spectacular weight loss, for example. She went, if you'll pardon me saying so, from two hundred and fifteen pounds to one hundred and thirty-five in a little over a year. I'm sure every woman in American would like to know how she did it.

"MERCANTEGGINI: She swalloed a tapeworm.

"ILKA: (Shocked) A tapeworm?" - p 759

Oh, that's nothing. Swallowing a few live crabs'll fix you up in no time. It'll probably be fatal but the weight loss can be spectacular.

On to what's reputed to be Ludlam's most famous play, "The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful" (1984). I found it to be one of the least interesting - but that figures, given the Grand Canyon between my interests & those of the general public. Then again, all the characters are played by just 2 actors so that's pretty special & might be the key to its popularity.

"JANE: And don't clump so with that wooden leg. You'll wake Lady Enid.

"NICODEMUS: And wasn't it to save Lord Edgar from the wolf that me leg got mangled so? I should think she'd be glad to hear me clump after what I did for him.

"JANE: Thatw as a long time ago. Lady Enid doesn't know anything about it.

"NICODEMUS: She'll find out soon enough.

"JANE: Now, now, Nicodemus, I won't have you frightening Lord Edgar's new bride with your wolf tales." - p 767

Ludlam's dialog is point-blank sublime.

"LADY ENID: I'm sure I will. Oh, Edgar, Edgar.

"LORD EDGAR: Oh, Enid, Enid.

"LADY ENID: Oh Wedgar, Wegar, Wedgar.

"LORD EDGAR: Oh Wenid, Wenid, Wenid.

"LADY ENID: (With a qualm) Edgar.

"LORD EDGAR: (Slightly reprimanding) Enid.

"LADY ENID: (Reassured) Edgar.

"LORD EDGAR: (Condescendingly) Enid.

"LADY ENID: (Snuggling his chest, with a sigh) Edgar Edgar Edgar.

"LORD EDGAR: (Comforting and comfortable) Enid Enid Enid.

"LADY ENID: (Passionately) Edgar!

"LORD EDGAR: (Aroused) Enid!

"LADY ENID: (More passionately) Edgar!

"LORD EDGAR: (More passionately) Enid!

"LADY ENID: (Rapturously) Edgar!

"LORD EDGAR: (Likewise) Enid!

"LADY ENID: (Climactically) Edgar!!

"LORD EDGAR: (Orgasmically) Enid!!

"LADY ENID: (Cooing) Edgar.

"LORD EDGAR: (Drowsily) Enid.

"LADY ENID: Edgar?

"LORD EDGAR: Enid." - pp 771-772


I like Ludlam's practice of taking the audience's possible reaction into consideration.

"LADY ENID: I fighten myself sometimes. Jane, I fear that Lord Edgar and I are drifting apart. It's a terrible thing to marry an Egyptologist and find out he's hung up on his mummy. [(If audience hisses) That wind!] - p 789

Next up, "Medea - A Tragedy - Freely Adapted from the Play by Euripedes" (1984).

"MEDEA: Destined? I'm not so sure it's destined. The stars impel but they do not compel. I'm not afraid to take responsibility for my actions, be they what they may! Adn as for the majority, why should they rule? I'd rather follow one exceptional man than a hrd of mediocrities!" - p 802

That seemed odd to me & I wondered just how freely adapted from Euripedes it was so I looked at a more straight-forward translation & didn't even find anything resembling the above.

Next, "How to Write a Play - An Absolute Farce" (1984).

"CHARLES: Ah! beautiful day. Perfect day. And today is the day I'm going to write a play. But first I'll quickly take care of a few things. (Looks over his extensive plant collection) Make some coffee. Ah, the stipelia has a new bud. I've got to water the bilbergia nutans. (Gets watering can) The ophiopogon needs repotting, BUT-NOT TODAY! Because today is the day I'm going to write a play. First feed the fish. (Sighs) And the birds. They really need water changes. Not oday. Not today. I've got to write a play. Their cages need claening but not today. Brush my teeth. Comb what's left of my hair. Shave-not today. I've got to write a play. I've got to writ a play. My face needs a rest anyway. (Looks in mirror) The poor thing looks exhausted. Between shaving and mugging it really gets a workout. (Commanding himself in the mirror) Write a play! Do you hear me? Write a play! You've put it off long enough. (Meekly) I'll try. (Sits at typewriter. Business of getting comfortable, adjusting the light, the chair, the typewriter, the paper) The light is perfect. The chair is comfortable. The paper is clean. (Raises his fingers as if to type) The light is too perfect. The chair is too comfortable. The paper is too clean. (Stares at the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter)" - p 816

Charles gets hoodwinked into thinking he's rc'vd flowers & jewelry from a composer that he wdn't admit to his home b/c he was trying to concentrate & wasn't interested in using the composer's music.

"CHARLES: Oh dear, I feel guilty. I wouldn't even see him. These flowers are simply gorgeous. He was so generous and I was so stingy with my time. (Smells the flowers) But what's this? (Removes a jewelry case from the bouquet Opens it and gasps) It's a necklace, earrings, bracelet, and ring. An incredible matched set. You don't see paste like this anymore. Costume jewelry of this quality costs a fortune. This isn't that shit they wear in Cages aux Folles that screams drag queen. This is a copy of Harry Winston.

"EVERETT: Let me see that. There's something inscribed on the back: "To the divine Galas, from her willing slave, Harry Winston."

"CHARLES: Harry Winston's been dead for years.

"EVERETT: Charles, this isn't a copy. This jewelry is real!

"CHARLES: (Almost drops the jewelry, as though it had suddenly turned hot in his hands) Real! Why a set of rocks like this must be worth several hundred thousand dollars! Do you know how much junk jewelry I could buy with that?

"EVERETT: I think your junk jewelry days are behind you. You've got the real thing there, honey.

"CHARLES: No, I'd be terrified to wear anything of this value. Compared to this stuff, my life wouldn't be worth a plug nickel, People have been decapitated for a fourteen-karat-gold-plated chain. Are you sure they're not diamelles?" - p 822

Really. I've read about people having their hand chopped off in the street to make it easier to pull their watch off. I've always ridden a junker bike & marvel at the naivité of people who ride expensive ones. Where I'm from it's not uncommon for someone to hit you w/ a baseball bat while you're riding a bike so they can knock you off it & take the bike. A friend of mine who worked in a bkstore told me about a well-known Hollywood actor, Emilio Estevez?, coming into the store & paying for something w/ a thick sheaf of large bills, obviously thousands of dollars. My friend was shocked: didn't he realize this was Baltimore?! Where he cd get killed for something like that w/o a 2nd thought?! Ok, he had a large bodyguard w/ him but, believe me, the bodyguard cd get shot as easily as the next guy.

Snowballing off the 1st hoodwinking, one lie follows another until there's a dinner party full of people who're being misled one way or another - forcing Ludlam into trying to save the situation & make it end so he can get back to the work he's never started.

"CHARLES: (To EVERETT, aside) This dinner party seems to be growing at an alarming rate, and I have got to write a play! (Goes to the door)

"ORVILLE: (Poking his head in the door) Mr. Ludlam, could I have a word with you?


"CHARLES: (Clutching at a straw) Here he is everybody! America's foremost comic playwright, Charles Ludlam! What a thrill! Can you believe it?

"ORVILLE: (Going over to the table) Er, ah, I'm not, what do you mean? There must be some mistake!

"CHARLES: (Aside to ORVILLE) Shut up you idiot! (Aloud) One of the great minds of the theater!

"ORVILLE: What . . . what are you . . . what do you mean? I don't understand. I don't understand anything.

"CHARLES: (Aside) Shut, up, blockhead! (Aloud) A man whose prfound understanding of human nature has made him a modern bard!

"ORVILLE: (Babbling almost like an idiot) But but I er ah, um, I er um-

"CHARLES: (Interrupting) A man with a consummate ear for dialogue. Here he is, Mr. Eloquence himself, Charles Ludlam!" - pp 840-841

I was in London 1984 & was to be awarded a "Poetic Act(or) of the Year" award or some such via an international phone call (something that wd've been quite expensive at the time) so instead of taking the call myself I had a Scottish sculptor friend 'impersonate' me. I deliberately chose this fellow b/c he had a thick Scottish accent & rarely sd more than a few words at a time, he was almost the opposite of me b/c I like witty extemporizing & can wax eloquent w/ little effort. This Scottish fellow cd barely talk at all. I'm not sure what the award givers made of it since they knew me personally & knew this wasn't me. It must've made for a very dull phone call.

As far as Ludlam's humorous self-promotion as "America's foremost comic playwright"?: I can't say that I disagree. I don't go to the theater that often (it's been yrs) but I do read plays (somewhat) & I do have an interest (hence I read this massive tome) & I do think Ludlam is/was astoundingly hilarious & inventive. I've sorry he's not still alive so I cd tell him that in person.

Next is another adaption, "Salammbo - An Erotic Tragedy - Freely adapted from the Novel by Gustave Flaubert" (1985). We enter w/ some spoofing of witchcraft.

"TAANACH: Here, the High Priestess has sent you this.

"SALAMMBO: (Absently) What is it?

"TAANACH: Something liquid yet coagulated.

"SALAMMBO: Ah. It is the blood of a black dog, strangled by barren women on a winter night amid the ruins of a sepulcher. (Dips her finger and rubs some behind her ears. TAANACH drinks off the rest) Make me magnificent." - p 865

"TAANACH: What bracelet?

"SALAMMBO: All of them. I will wear them all. (Piles jewelry on) If someone were to adore me, I am sure I would take pleasure in making him suffer until he died of it.

"TAANACH: Perhaps you should whip a slave. That always makes you feel better.

"SALAMMBO: Taanach, this is no time for frivolity. Well, perhaps just a small slave. (SMALL SLAVE enters and is whipped) This slave is too skinny. Bring me a mesomorph. (MESOMORPH enters) Now that's more like it. (MESOMORPH is whipped to the point of delight) My headache's gone! (SLAVE <exits)" - p 865

I didn't make any reviewer notes-to-self about the next & last play, "The Artificial Jungle - A Suspense Thriller" (1986) so we'll just have to drop the curtain now. Rest in Peas.




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