Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ape Angst

Tarzan was a dud.  There's no other way to describe the  play that Georgetown's Palace Theater mounted this past month, and Fio wasn't the only one to think so.  For the first time in the ten years that she and Husband have been patronizing the Palace, the audience did not give the actors a second curtain call--yep, no standing ovation.

It wasn't the cast's fault.  They acted their hearts out, maybe trying to compensate for the trite, forgettable songs or for the play itself, which was a litany of ape angst.  Yes, Tarzan played like it had been written by a PETA extremist.

Fio had expected something different--a romp, in fact--a fun show with a lot of catchy tunes that both children and adults could enjoy.  Instead, it was a philosophical treatise on the nobility of apes as opposed to the shallowness and venality of man.

Everything was abstract.  The play started with a  full stage of actors dressed in white leotards leaping around and waving diaphanous aqua tablecloths at the audience.  Fio thought they were supposed to represent the Greek fates, but a quick look at the program told her they were ocean waves, although what ocean waves had to do with the story was never explained.

Next we saw a set that looked like a Wagner production out of Bayreuth in which half-naked monkey children played happily together until a leopard made off with the baby of the gorilla head honcho and his mate, both of whom expressed their philosophical sorrow in song.  Then, in an overhead scene, we saw Tarzan's parents die during a storm at sea. (Aha!  The ocean waves!) The bereft ape mother, of course, took Tarzan to her bosom, defending him against her mate with another angsty song.

Weirdness followed weirdness, like the antics of the over-the-top male drama-queen ape, the African flora stripping Jane down to her bloomers, the stage hands walking through the action scenes, the over-abundance of suspension wires, the apes moving like knuckle-dragging chimpanzees rather than the gorillas they were supposed to be, the big production numbers that periodically erupted, and the kinky blond wigs that the Tarzans (child and adult) wore--wigs that Fio kept hoping would fall off.

During intermission, Fio and Husband compared notes with their guests.  Nephew Barrett commented on the pace of the show, comparing it to a two-hour movie that should have been over in thirty minutes.   His wife said she'd always thought apes interacted with each other physically rather than by exchanging deep, complicated thoughts in song.

Apparently the rest of the audience felt the same way because the applause was sparse--polite at best--but then, it's hard for venal, shallow humans to get involved in a play about the angst of the apes.

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