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F-ing Up: The Junk Versus The Good Stuff

F-Poster.jpgWhat is it about featuring a much overused swear word that attracts a crowd, especially a youthful one? On July 22, 2011, the Dresser saw F#@king Up Everything, an indie rock musical presented by Charlie Fink as a Jeremy Handelman production in the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival. And yes, the swear word is spelled that way in all the publicity.

The Dresser is well aware that the Fringe Fest seeks over-the-top productions, but, in truth, use of the F-word does not an out-there production make. What F#@king Up Everything with music & lyrics by David Eric Davis, book by Sam Forman & David Eric Davis, has going for it is two young people who both majored in gender studies though neither of them belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT) community. If Forman and Davis had better developed this theme, then F-ing Up would stand out from the mosh pit of Fringe productions.

So while the show opened with a skinny-jeaned rocker named Jake (John Fritz) putting his junk into the faces of those foolish enough to sit in the front row as he crooned the song from which the show draws its title, the stars of the show are a dorky but loveable puppeteer named Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg (Lee August Praley) and a ukulele-playing blond-knockout babe named Juliana (Crystal Mosser). As with most musical comedies, a series of miscommunications occur. Juliana's good friend Ivy (Dani Stoller), while involved with the affable stoner and electric base player Tony (Jason Wilson), is in love with Jake. Jake, to put it into the facile rhyming schema of F-ing Up, is always on the make and though he considers Ivy his best friend, Juliana becomes his next hit.TrashBar.jpg

Of course, things backfire and Jake lures the disappointed-in-love Christian, who is his childhood friend, into the too-hot-to-handle arms of a booking agent named Arielle (Crystal Arnette). Like Juliana, Arielle recognizes the genuineness of Christian, but only after she makes Jake and Christian part of her "fuck-it list." She's up to the letter M and that means ménage à trois. There is a hilarious song for this sexpot sung by Jake and Christian with the repeated phrase "Arielle's areolas."

Puppet.jpgThe best part of this musical is when Christian pulls out his hand puppets and talks to them to work out how he is feeling. Lee August Praley as Christian does a great job with his role both as singer and actor. He knows how be the dork without overdoing the character. Among Christian's intellectual puppets is the linguist Noam Chomsky. If the Dresser heard correctly, there is also a puppet named Michel Foucault (the Twentieth century French philosopher). There isn't much time to develop the characters of these puppets so the names aren't much more than other names that are casually dropped into the script (e.g. Burning Man Festival). However, the intellectual puppets are countered with the likes of the one-armed puppet Rick Allen (drummer Allen is an amputee who continued to play with Def Leppard after losing one of his arms) and the punk rock guitarist-songwriter Robert Smith.Christian.jpg

Also noteworthy is that some of the band members on stage are engaged as actors. Most notably is Tony, the man Ivy lives with but the drummer (Alex Aucoin) also gets involved in the dramatic action at the end of the play. What's disappointing about this production is the stage direction by Jay Brock. The Dresser thinks he overdid raunchy and played up the obvious. However, part of the problem is the script and lyrics, which are heavy on easy rhyme, name-dropping, and lack of subtlety. Nonetheless, Dear Reader, if you bring your earplugs (the music, which is what the Dresser would say is standard musical fare--not so memorable, is way too loud for comfort), you might miss some of these problems and just go along for the ride. With plenty of good visuals (set, costumes, props), this is easy entertainment. There are additional performances of F#@king Up Everything in what Wooly Mammoth Theatre is calling Post-Fringe scheduling through August 14, 2011.

In Mark Bibbins' poem "Redemption," the reader is almost lulled into the blissful state of flying when out of the blue, comes a line about "kicking the crap out of someone" and then a Gertrude Stein quote ending "no chance to misunderstand pansies." The poem goes on to compare the we in the poem to "tranny hookers under the Manhattan Bridge." F#@king Up Everything, which is, by the by, set in Brooklyn, also has this kind of bomb laid on the unsuspecting audience--the straight college kids who are invested in studies involving the LGBT community and the sudden emergence of male-on-male attraction. (The Dresser will leave that relationship to your imagination.) What is love all about? Bibbins stabs at it when he talks about "the great corporate slideshow of the heart" where "the bullet points are blanks." The Dresser thinks F#@king Up Everything has a lot of unrealized passion to explore and that includes the wider universe of who we are as women and men.


Here's another rack on which to hang
your critical coat: a flight over the plain

states keeps going and no one notices, the ride
is so smooth; even the inevitable drop

into the Pacific is of no more moment
than the twitch of a sleeping cat's ear.

There's a pack of kids on a nearby
aircraft carrier, talking about

kicking the crap out of someone,
though all I keep hearing is,

.....I can't [activity] with you when I'm [adjective].
"He likes it that there is no chance to misunderstand pansies."
........................................................................................--G. Stein

That was ages ago, when everyone's predilections
could spread unchecked and without consequence.

We flourished, all dirty and dazzling
as tranny hookers under the Manhattan Bridge.

.....Yes, but can you [activity] when you're not [adjective]?
.....What if you were slightly [adjective]?

Today, in the great corporate slideshow
of the heart, the bullet points are blanks.

Today, though I am feeling positively artisanal,
I'm letting you do the work, like you

like to: I'm letting you pretend you're still
the sun, drawing an infernal line through every thing.

Mark Bibbins
The Dance of No Hard Feelings

Copyright © 2009 Mark Bibbins

Photo credit: Karren L. Alenier


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 24, 2011 7:10 PM.

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