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Review: Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The young, sassy Blackout Theatre is celebrating its second birthday with a wild and wacky production of “Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde” by Charles Ludlam. The irreverence and zaniness of Ludlam’s 1983 “comedy-ballet” suits this energetic ensemble perfectly, and their pleasure in performing under Brian Eugenio Herrera’s direction comes across to the capacity audience in the Box Performing Space. In Ludlam’s satire of artistic affectation and the use of patronage to gain social position, Molière meets the Marx Brothers with hilarious results.

Ludlam was the founder of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York City – and its only playwright. He described his work as a combination of “wit, parody, vaudeville farce, melodrama and satire.” Ludlam usually starred in his plays (often performing in drag), and served as director and designer as well.

In “Le Bourgeois Avant-Garde” Rufus Foufas is a successful grocer seeking recognition as a patron of the newest and most experimental artistic production-the avant-garde. He is also seeking the Polish avant-garde actress Maia Panzaroff (read it aloud and chuckle). Foufas writes checks to The Composer, The Choreographer, and the director Percival Hack to support their weird work. Foufas has a wife, Mrs. Foufas, and a daughter, Prue, who wants to marry the stable banker next door Newton Entwhistle.

Foufas invites everyone to his home for a meal and the latest performance pieces, with his eye on Ms. Panzaroff. The maid Violet and Mrs. Foufas object to the artsy crowd, and Violet comes up with a Molièrian trick to bring Prue and Newton together.

Believe me, plot is not what draws one to Ludlam’s theater. Outrageous characters clad in outrageous costumes perform and/or discuss outrageous music, dance, and painting. Jeff Anderson as The Composer and Leonard Madrid as The Choreographer begin the evening and set the tone with ridiculous renditions of performance artists. Lithe Anderson, dressed in a turquoise shirt and black tights, flits about the stage while the more substantial Madrid, his beard shaved in a rather nice design and his forelock died mousey brown, executes precious dance steps. Over the top? You betcha.

Among the women, attractive Heather Yeo, her red hair spun into a cotton candy cocoon atop her head, purses her lips and gestures wildly as Mrs. Foufas. Pretty Meghan Bode is a delight as Violet, and lovely Lauren Poole uses an eastern European accent and a bubble-wrap breastplate to portray exotic Panzeroff. Not so attractive Christopher Walsh plays Prue in drag.

Fernando Fresquez seems almost sane as Hack, but Shannon Flynn as Foufas is the calm at the center of the comic vortex. He presents his character’s preposterous pretension as almost believable, never pushing the comedy too far or fast. Of course, his character gets what he deserves, including initiation into the Avant-Derrière. This is a cheeky play.