The Disgusting Mr. Ridley @ Broken Gears

“Fitness has got fuck all to do with it. It’s survival of the sickest.”

High points of The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley as produced by Broken Gears Project Theatre:

1)   Joey Folsom’s unique entrance as surreal character Cosmo

2)  the play’s lead characters Cosmo and Prestley eating cockroaches

3)   Clay Wheeler’s amazing memorization feat and interesting delivery of a self-indulgent, endless, boring monologue as Prestley

4)  the company’s new location, more accessible for Dallas audiences than their previous Irving location

Misty Venters, Clay Wheeler

Low points of The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley as produced by Broken Gears Project Theatre:

1)   Ridley’s bleak, derivative, maudlin play

2)   the play’s lead characters Cosmo and Prestley eating cockroaches

3)   the company’s new location, minus signage, lights, parking area or decent directions on the website, amazingly just as hard to find as their former Irving location.

Surfed the web trying to figure out why the heck anyone would want to produce this sleazy little play. Here’s what wikipedia offered, with oddly structured verbiage:

The Pitchfork Disney is the first stage play by the multi-talented artist Philip Ridley. It was premiered at the Bush Theatre in London, England in 1991. It was a controversial hit and is now generally regarded as being the play that heralded the arrival a whole new generation of writers to world of theatre.” And then here is what The Daily Telegraph said about Mr. Ridley: “Philip Ridley’s work is compelling, original and about as nasty as you can get…it should be burnt by the public executioner.” If this play indeed “heralded the arrival a whole new generation of writers to world of theatre” I think I may slit wrists. ‘Fraid this critic concurs with The Daily Telegraph, except for that word “original.” Guess the person who wrote that remark never encountered Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.

Consider Samuel Beckett…Nobel prize-winning, postmodern Irish dramatist, viewed by many as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century for his contribution to dramatic literature and the Theatre of the Absurd. He first presented Endgame in London in 1957, an absurdist, post-apocalyptic play about two co-dependent, weird, enmeshed child-like characters, locked into a one-room reality. Servant Clov spends considerable time staring warily out a window, describing what he sees or imagines he sees “outside” and exits occasionally for food. Hamm, confined to a chair for unknown reasons, worries about death and the unknown and forces Clov to do his bidding. Hamm’s parents, who live in onstage trashcans, exacerbate Hamm’s irrational behavior and provide unwelcome reminders of the “outside” world. Hamm’s mother dies near the play’s end.

Watching The Pitchfork Disney, it’s hard to escape noticing a pattern of over-arching conceptual and characterization similarities to Endgame. Such as, the post-apocalyptic retreat into a dismal one-room world by two co-dependent, weird, enmeshed “children” with a fixation on deceased parents. Brother Prestley spends considerable stage time staring warily out a window, describing what he sees or imagines he sees “outside” and exits occasionally for food. Sister Haley, mostly helpless and stationary, becomes drugged out or explodes in hysterics on the room’s centrally located sofa, terrified of unknown threats  “outside”. She coerces Prestley into doing her bidding. Cosmo and sidekick Pitchfork disturb the delusional peace of the main characters’ strange world, when they force entry into it, or into the lead characters’ imaginations. Did Beckett genuinely inspire Ridley, or did the latter just rip off Endgame and twist it like raggedy old panties to his own play-writing needs? Both plays certainly deal with murky inner torment. Beckett revealed in stage performance and interview, “clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most…precious ally”. The difference is that Beckett wrote a magnificent work of dramatic literature with Endgame; Ridley wrote words that drone on and on, created scenes expressly to shock but little more, with The Pitchfork Disney. His play inspires discreet watch-checking every fifteen minutes.

Broken Gears Project Theatre has been forced to relocate several times this year, no fault of its own. The old house the company now inhabits may prove an asset, more than a jumble of tiny rooms hastily ‘decorated’ in B horror movie drab as they are now. One gets the dim flashlight tour as ostensible atmosphere-setting enhancement prior to the current performance; the effect is cheesy, a strained connection. Cast members Clay Wheeler, Misty Venters, Joey Folsom and Mark C. Guerra give focused performances in roles of dubious merit and limited interest. Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea allowed Broken Gears’ director Nathan Autrey far greater opportunity to demonstrate his potential as an innovative artist in February 2010. My final line from a review of another Broken Gears’ production: “I’ll gamble more than a wooden nickel on their next season.” Bring it on, folks.

The Pitchfork Disney runs through 11/13 with Broken Gears Project Theatre. Their performing space is located at 3819 Fairmount (Entrance off Shelby-Next to Dallas Observer Bldg.) May you have GPS.

http://www.brokengearstheatre.com

Review of Undermain Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame:

https://criticalrant.com/2010/04/30/eternal-checkmate-undermains-endgame/

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