Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Theater review part deux: Party Mouth at the Ochre House in Dallas
This deranged musical comedy accurately depicts a life of wonderment and addiction.
DALLAS Set in 1970s Dallas, Party Mouth (playing at The Ochre House) tells the story of Baby Doll (aka Chardonnay) a sweet young lass who shares a flat with best friend Bunny, after they flee the provincial hamlet of Spring, Texas. Baby is a smack addict. We see her shooting up with the help of a verbally abusive puppet called The Haberdasher. He helps her with the spoon, hypodermic, etc, while talking trash. When she’s not avoiding her parents (Merle and Pearl) Baby and Bunny often entertain their boyfriends, Joey, Diesel, and DuWayne. They mostly spend their time together, getting lost in the stupor of narcotics, hallucinogenics, and other controlled substances. They’re not much different from college kids, who seem to engage in perpetual recreation, except their prospects for the future seem grim.
There’s a lot to suggest Baby uses psychotropics to distract her from unresolved childhood trauma, so she lives episodically in their grubby digs, with occasional visits from '70s fringe dweller icon, Andy Warhol. Andy always appears with his movie camera, coaxing Bunny and Baby to participate in his incidental filmmaking. It’s worth noting that Warhol would certainly qualify as the most glamorous icon of the grubby, underground, countercultural lifestyle. Baby bears a distinct resemblance to Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick, and much of Warhol’s film style (along with director, John Waters) resonates with Ochre House content.
You could say The Ochre House always seeks to challenge and intrigue us. You could also say Charles Starkweather had anger management issues. There’s a desultory vibe permeating Party Mouth quite reminiscent of the apathetic, nihilistic, buried rage so palpable in early Waters and Warhol movies such as "Desperate Living," "Female Trouble," "Heat" and "Bad," though perhaps more connected in tone than plot. Billed as a musical comedy (surely in a dark sense) moments like searching for fried chicken left between the sheets and three guys dancing in their skivvies, provide some comic relief to this bleak, rattling, yet undeniably absorbing piece.
Whenever I visit The Ochre House, I feel like I’m taking a broken bus to another planet. Or an unfiltered look at this one. I say this with great esteem and admiration for writer/director Matthew Posey. Party Mouth is so vivid, so unflinching, so calm, so deranged ... Perhaps it’s a roman a’clef for the life of Sedgwick, whose attempts to find comfort among the alienated and disenfranchised just never worked out. I’m not sure you could call it a cautionary tale, since Bunny seems doomed before the play begins, and her parents seem every bit as lost as her friends. The answer to her pain is so melancholy, that rational response seems elusive. It’s like watching the slow motion train wreck of "Leaving Las Vegas" without the gravitas. Posey seems to understand (like Jean Genet or David Lynch) that if the alternate reality you are confiding is genuine enough, without vanity or agenda, that is all we can ask, and all we need.
Laurels and bouquets to Party Mouth’s agile, febrile, intuitive cast: Elizabeth Evans (Baby Doll), Kevin Grammer (Merle), Justin Locklear (Joey), Josh Jordan (DuWayne), Carla Parker (Pearl), Mitchell Parrack (Diesel), Trenton Stephenson (Andy Warhol), and Natalie Young (Bunny).
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner