Just as Ann Chamberlin's Jihad (also part of the MITF at the New Perspectives Theatre Company) chronicles the never-ending battle between the sexes, Josh Ben Friedman's Barstool Words covers much the same ground, but in a startlingly different, equally successful fashion.
Writing with rapid-fire Mamet-like precision, Friedman dissects the inner workings of two high-school buddies 10 years after graduation, when both have fully matured into their inevitable DMS destiny. (Translation: Dumb Macho Shithead.) Spinning riffs on the meaning of truth in relationships, maturity, and sexuality, Friedman's script is a constantly twisting tour de force of ugly people doing ugly things in a very ugly, but violently funny way. No one in the play, neither the men nor the women they profess to love, come across as anything remotely like a rational human being, but in their warts-and-all depiction they are so totally human that the shock of recognition comes as a one-two punch to the gut: we don't want to admit we know these people at the same time we recognize their all-too human frailties as our own.
Jeff Glickman directed at a dizzying pace that gave the evening the sharp edge it needed, while at the same time allowing the text to shine through the sometimes breathless action. The two men in the cast, Donovan Patton as the yuppie-wannabe overachiever and Erin Gann as his underachieving, beer-swilling, blue-collar pal, were both superb: they played off each other with the intimate, wary finesse of lifelong friends, beautifully handling even the trickiest of emotions with a wonderfully male mixture of bravado and bluff.
Chauncey Vanderhoff's ratty set evoked a bachelor pad with an alarmingly drab reality, as did Lancelot McGwire's harsh, mostly white lighting. Vicki Frentober's costumes captured the look of men who desperately need the guiding light of "E Fashion Emergency."
Barstool Words is not to everybody's taste: it is often
crude, contains harsh language, and has a gleefully malicious
lack of political correctness in its dissection of male-female
politics. But for those of us who like to be shaken up, tossed
about, and made to think, it is a bracing evening that entertains
even as it revolts - we laugh although horrified by the cynical,
and ultimately logical, truth that stings.
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita