Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side

Photo: Larry Cobra

David Ahonen's amazing play, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side (directed by the author), deals in contrasts. Its characters are cartoons, yet three-dimensional. The performances are full-bore, with much yelling, yet often subtle. The good guys do bad things and the bad guys do good things (and who is good and who is bad is up for debate). Anarchy is glorified and skewered, and free love is shown to be not all that free. The plot follows a tradition going back to You Can't Take It With You and Arsenic and Old Lace (and probably further back than that): a quirky, nonconformist family is visited by an ostensibly normal person. In this case, the family is composed of two men and two women leading lives of political, financial, and sexual anarchy, and the normal person is a relative who comes for a visit. With Ahonen's constant puncturing of assumptions, anarchy and normal are revealed to be empty terms, and we see how people are the sum of their desires and their deeds, labels be damned. The show is rowdy, silly, funny, and deeply moving. It also includes the funniest nude scene I've ever seen. And the performers, led by the amazing Sarah Lemp and James Kautz, provide everything you could ask for in a meaningful farce.

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