Before I get to an outright pan of the immoderately irritating Stop Hitting Yourself — created by Austin’s Rude Mechs and now squatting in the Lincoln Center Theater at the Claire Tow — I’ll offer unmitigated praise for the enterprise’s one big plus: Mimi Lien’s set.
Imagine a Las Vegas hotel lobby where Liberace is just about to perform, and you have an idea. Hanging in a gaudy, gilded multi-leveled room are 17 — count ’em (I did) 17 — chandeliers of various configurations. Prominently plopped on the floor are a gold-plated rip-off of Michelangelo’s David and a money sign constructed of bulbs — count ’em (I didn’t) — that Andy Warhol would have only wished he’d painted. There’s also a gold piano, it should be needless to say.
Lien’s creation is present for all to see and happily wallow in on entering Hugh Hardy’s inviting auditorium. And wallowing in what’s there to be ogled is the most fun a patron will have once the play proper, or improper, begins. One last thing about the set: Lying downstage on it is a bearded man next to a fallen microphone stand.
He’s the actor Thomas Graves, the one who — after asking help from an audience member so he can regain his footing — explains he’s portraying Wildman and has been taken in for cleaning and civilizing by the other characters. He further announces that when the play ends 90 minutes later, he’ll be dead and in his former prone position. Incidentally, before the final fade-out, there’s an indication that Wildman is intended to be — oh, well — a Christ figure.
Some spectators may realize immediately and some after not too long a time that the hairy, semi-naked man represents those of us who aren’t part of the economic echelon that supports such materialistic vulgarity. Few on-lookers won’t get that Wildman’s death stands for every one of us 99 percent who are ripe to be crushed by the powerful and insensitive one percent.
What the Rude Mechs are after, since they concoct their works in the Lone Star state, is a satire on Texas outlandishness, which may or may not go over in those parts. They depict it by way of Wildman’s inclusion at a blowout thrown by Queen (Paul Soileau), who makes a late-ish entrance in a mechanized wheelchair. Yes, her infirmity is a metaphor for her crippled sensibilities.
The ostentatiously bewigged Queen has announced that at the end of the annual gala, there will be a competition, the winner of which will be awarded a good deed of his or her choosing. Aside from Wildman, the competitors are Unknown Prince (Joey Hood), Trust Fund Sister (Hannah Kenah) and hubby Magnate (E. Jason Liebrecht) and Socialite (Lana Lesley). Not vying but close at hand is Maid (Heather Hanna).
Once Wildman sets the proceedings …read more
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