In a Gadda Da Vida

Feel my pain: The cast of The Waiting Room mulls the deeper meaning of disease

In the beginning, there was darkness. Then God created men. That was her first mistake. Surveying the hairy miscreants, she saw that it was not good. So she created women. That was her second mistake. The men, who were not at all splendid in their nakedness, kept to themselves. And the women, who quickly discovered power tools and field hockey, did likewise.

Therein is the prelapsarian Eden of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Paul Rudnick's broad lampoon of the breeders' Bible. The first couples in this case are Jane and Mabel (Heather Stone and Kourtney K. Kaas, respectively), and Adam and Steve (John Watkins and Dan Abdon), who first appear in jock straps with the word "fig" scribbled on them. God, a deliciously droll Stage Manager played by Suzy Messerole, signals the consummation of the first tryst with the rather indecorous command, "Boners, go!"

As you may gather, this Eden is a swinging place (due warning for the priggish: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told manages to put more limp pricks onstage than a GOP presidential debate). The Genesis myth, suggested in director Jef Hall-Flavin's production by a potted plant, takes an early bow in favor of double-entendre and one-liners. Upon their first meeting, for instance, Adam asks one of his butch peers why she is wearing clothes. "I need pockets," she deadpans. On the seventh day, God created rim shots.

Rudnick, who is best known for 1993's Jeffrey, is sometimes tagged as a gay version of Neil Simon. This is not, I think, a compliment. Indeed, Rudnick seems most comfortable when trafficking in repartee and stereotypes (rumors abound of lesbians who have hobbies other than building furniture). Rudnick's iconoclasm, too, is of a rather harmless variety. During the antediluvian pleasure cruise, Jane begins dating outside the species. An Egyptian boy-queen (Zach Curtis, stealing scenes in a ridiculous headdress) forces his slaves to sing show tunes while they toil. Contrary to church doctrine, the Virgin Mary turns out to be a flaky lesbian. Outré as it all is, it's also pretty damn funny.

Not so for the play's second act, which posits Central Park as a latter-day Eden. Adam, Steve, and company have gathered in a Chelsea loft to celebrate Christmas and a second immaculate conception. Mabel is pregnant by artificial means, and Steve is preparing to exit the world via retrovirus. Adding to the confusion, a lesbian rabbi in a wheelchair (Julie Ann Neville) shows up to distribute greeting-card Judaism and marriage licenses. Outward Spiral's heretofore crisply directed and campily acted production begins to grind. And Rudnick's creation, suddenly pontificating and dull, becomes another joke without a punch line. God, at least, ought to sympathize.


Indignation springs eternal in Lisa Loomer's The Waiting Room, now getting its area premiere at Park Square Theatre. In this earnest reworking of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, Loomer plays a cheap theatrical trick: Take three women--an 18th-century Chinese lady, a repressed Victorian, and a modern material girl--give them parallel ailments--bound feet, corseted waist, and carcinogenic breast implants--and let the histrionics ensue. The purpose would seem to be to expose the debilitating standards of beauty imposed upon females by patriarchal society. In morbid detail, each of the three women describes how her accession to said standards has destroyed her body: the 18th-century lady's bound toes are falling off; the corseted Victorian's rib cage is collapsing; and the material girl, whose urge to implant silicone pancakes in her chest presumably stems from her lack of self-worth, has contracted cancer. Sisterhood, in Loomer's formulation, equals victimhood.

Someone must be to blame for this litany of distaff sorrow, of course. Loomer goes on to suggest therefore that there are men who, because of profit margins, would withhold treatment from breast-cancer patients. It ought to be said that cancer is a very bad thing. Of that, there is no doubt. And since we need not debate that which is not in question, Loomer's reassertion of cancer's nastiness is a moot point. "46,000 women last year," one of the long-suffering ladies exclaims in an exhausting burst of rhetoric. "Every woman in the waiting room is scared to death of her own body...maybe [the medical establishment] is a cancer industry." This misplacement of blame is more than wrong-headed; it's wrong-hearted.


The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told runs through February 5 at the Hennepin Center for the Arts; (612) 343-3390. The Waiting Room runs through February 6 at Park Square Theatre; (651) 291-7005.

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