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THEATER REVIEW

Hoopla of the Helmeted Soldier

From the Shower to Center Stage, Puppetry of the Penis is Raunchy Fun

By Brian Loux

Staff Writer

Puppetry of the Penis

Runs until April 30

Copley Theater

$35

Guys,” I said, “I just wanna tell you this. Tonight, for the Arts section, I’m going to see a show called Puppetry of the Penis. It’s basically these comedians who make people laugh by playing with their penises in public. I just wanted to let you know.”

“Don’t ever eat with us again,” came the response.

That was the sentiment I got from pretty much everybody. A show whose title warns of full-frontal male nudity probably should send such chills down most people’s spines. Puppetry of the Penis is literally what it sounds like. Australian pair Dan Lewry and Simon Morley (one of the creators) come out with capes, ditch the capes, and contort their penis, testicles, and scrotum into odd-looking figures. But in the name of journalism, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and got over to the Copley Theatre, only to realize the pain had hardly begun.

I was hoping to silently observe from the back. The ticket agent had other plans.

“Good news, Mr. Loux,” he said, “We moved you all the way to the front with the cushioned seats.” Row BB, seat 106. Front and center. Right.

Added to this, I was the only person in my row for quite some time. This may not seem like a problem until you realized there were three types of audience members. First and foremost there were groups of women. They traveled in packs -- nay, in droves. Usually more than five at a time. They were there for birthday and bachelorette parties or to catcall the guys on stage.

Then there were the couples. The all-too-eager girlfriends and their boyfriends who wriggled like fish when they realized how close to the front they were.

Then there was me, in a row all by myself, right in the front. That could only mean one thing. I was a very mature journalist sent to review the play.

The Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime” played before the show began and some passages (“You may ask yourself: how did I get here?”) resonated deeply. I finally exhaled when three women filled the rest of my row.

The show began with a brief female stand-up comic telling the standard fare of penis jokes and laughing at the fact that the audience attended. “How drunk are you all?” she asked. Of course, there was the final audience participation bit, which required a male from one of the front rows. She jumped on me and the audience howled.

Then came real meat of the show. Lewry and Morley came out trying to prepare the audience with what they were about to see. “This is last time you let somebody buy your tickets for you!” Lewry quipped. For the most part, their comedy and goofy attitudes helped push the show forward when the shock value of the act didn’t. There was a giant screen in the middle of the stage connected to a video camera in the front (to the right of me). “For those of you in the back, you’ll be able to see us in all our glory. For those of you in the front, it will be hell on earth.”

The contortions actually were funny, and were heightened by the duo’s self-deprecating attitudes and one-liners. Most even took some skill, like the hamburger. And then there were others that looked painful, like the bullfrog. The tricks usually relied on the shock and the humor of the contortion itself. A few lesser ones relied on Lewry and Morley to crack enough jokes until they held the position for about 30 seconds. Certainly the creators realized that as time went on, with the exception of the grand finale, the shock of each new trick waned to some degree. Thus the show is rather short (50 minutes) so the jokes won’t get stale. Staleness though, is a relative term, and some could easily grow tired after three “dick tricks.”

During the show, there were a few quips about the Vagina Monologues, as the show appeared to be in the same vein. When it really comes down to it, the show is an anti-Vagina Monologues. The vagina is given metaphor and emotion and deeper truth as if it were a Shakespearean character.

Here, the penis, testicles, and scrotum are a malleable Larry, Curly and Moe in a slapstick farce. Though feminists might argue that portraying the penis as something to be laughed at erases an aura of fear and domination, it would ignore the real message of the show: genitals are just genitals. And mighty weird, too.

This is the kind of performance where everyone will react differently. You’ll get the most out of it if you’re not the squeamish type and will laugh at almost any dirty joke. That worked for me, and I gave the performers a round of applause. And then I tore out of there at a sprinter’s pace.