The Plagiarists' American Stage Sessions will knock you on your ASS
Last Tuesday night I checked out the latest show from those brazen thieves at the Plagiarists, a young company whose mission is, basically, to make art based on existing art. The new show, American Stage Sessions (heh heh, ASS, get it?) is smart, stupid and meta-meta-meta: A public-access telethon to save the Muskogee County Magic Theatre Players Ensemble involves the earnest members of said theater players ensemble presenting excerpts from the great plays of America's lesser-known—read: made-up—playwrights; the "telethon" is hosted by the theater's stuffy professorial artistic director, who's embarrassed at having to sully art with commerce, and a cheesetastic TV star who got his start on stage right here in Muskogee County.
The excerpts, some of which were seen this summer at Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins XXI, are great fun for theater types; the spot-on allusions to the tropes of both Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill in the scenes from the first playwright, "Alabama O'Dell," are both sly and broad. The ensemble goes balls-out, too—I won't soon forget the sight of Layne Manzer eating the dirt of the family "city farm," brown spittle dribbling down his chin.
The satiric subjects of the other two fake playwrights are less clear. "Herzlichen Gluckwunsch Zum Geburtstag" had my theater-savvy friend and I grasping at Euros: Strindberg? Genet? "Elmer Templeton Shirley" seemed like Odets with maybe a dash of Elmer Rice. Our struggle to peg the parodies made me wonder if this might all be too insidery for those without a drama degree. And the show as a whole is definitely too long at two hours and two intermissions (presumably to allow for bar visits). The interstitial business between the TV star and the professor (Ryan Palmer and Gregory Peters, above) goes on way too long. We could do with less focus on establishing a throughline for them and more hilarity from the MCMTPE. But despite these minor quibbles, the Plagiarists' ASS is well worth checking out. It continues Mondays and Tuesdays through November 3. 8pm, Viaduct Theatre, $15, students and seniors $10.