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Puppetry of the Penis needs no props
BY JON GARELICK
Puppetry of the Penis:
The Ancient Australian Art of Genital Origami
Created by David Friend and Simon Morley. With Dan Lewry and Simon Morley. At the Copley Theatre indefinitely.
If youíve heard or read about Puppetry of the Penis and are wondering just how well-endowed the show really is, letís say that itís just long enough. Fifty minutes of dick jokes ó with real dicks as illustrations ó stretch the concept as far as it will go, and the two stars ó and their props ó start with high shock value but get decreasing returns as the night goes on. They get off the stage just in time.
To catch you up: Puppetry of the Penis started as a joke calendar that didnít sell. Thatís when creator Simon Morley gave in to requests for live demonstrations and took the act to pubs with co-creator David Friend and eventually to the 1998 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where the act received an " Outright Best in Show " award. That performance led to worldwide touring, including an appearance at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. The show eventually ran for five months in Londonís West End, boasting celebrity-studded audiences.
At the Copley Theatre, Morley and Dan Lewry appeared on stage draped in, respectively, purple and white capes. But after a short preamble, it was onto " the shock part of the show, " when the two men stripped off the capes. They nonchalantly performed the rest of the show dressed in nothing but running shoes and socks.
The show proper was series of " installations " ó the Bullfrog, the Pelican, the Boomerang, the Turtle, the Hot Dog, the Hamburger, and so on, all projected live on a giant on-stage screen. How you respond to these tricks will probably depend on your gender and your sexual preference. In-your-face-lesbian comic Julie Goldman ó who was the eveningís warm-up act, or " fluffer, " as she said, and who in many ways outshone the headliners ó got to the meat of the matter when she took an informal poll of the audience and concluded, " A roomful of fag hags, gays, and straight men dragged by their girlfriends and wives. "
But donít forget large numbers of stag-party twentysomething females, who seemed to be providing the most high-register shrieks at the Copley. As for the depth and number of your laughs, that will probably depend on how much dick youíve had ó or played with: the more experience youíve had, the less likely you are to laugh. The immediate laughs come from the size of those Jumbotron close-ups of the menís units. The tricks themselves demand all manner of stretching and twisting ó enough to give any man in the audience sympathy pains for every installation no matter how much the boys protested with lines like: " Donít worry, it doesnít hurt. On a good day we can pull our scrotums over our heads. "
As for gays, well, a proper assessment of Puppetry of the Penis would include reviews from a woman, a heterosexual man, and a gay man. But that would be giving the show more space than it deserves. Morley and Lewry play to the women in the audience, with plenty of nudge-nudge, wink-wink lines addressed to the " ladies " and the biggest laughs of the night coming with the help of a young female volunteer from the audience. The duo avoid even a whiff of homoerotic humor: they perform at opposite sides of the stage, and at no point does either help manipulate the otherís " installation. " The press material for the show promises an " adult non-sexual show, " and thatís exactly what they deliver.
That said, the boys do have their charms. Theyíre both fit, though not excessively buff ó their appearance as non-threatening, as " non-sexual, " as the rest of the showís content. Morley is the, uh, straight man, delivering a lot of his patter with one wrist draped casually over the boom of his mike stand, whereas Lewry is more likely to stand arms akimbo with a goofy look on his face or run naked through the audience to demonstrate the Bulldog. As for the tricks themselves, the uncircumcised Lewry might have a slight edge with installations like the Eiffel Tower, but otherwise their units seem equally flexible.
Okay, itís bad, but you have to admit, these guys have balls. Or, as Morley put it with his typical self-depreciating charm, " Thereís only so much you can do on stage with a pair of testes, a scrotum, and penis. "