The Wages of Greed

Playwright John Clancy’s 2004 Edinburgh Fringe hit adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi lands here just in time for the Wall Street meltdown and one of the most surreal election campaigns in American history. What does a farce from the turn-of-last-century about a slovenly, debauched and debauching glutton-king of Poland and his equally hideous wife have to do with us? Start with Macbeth, then fast-forward to Charles Keating. Remember home sweet Home Savings & Loan? Enron? If that’s too far back in time, think about Countrywide Financial Corporation and the predatory sub-prime mortgages that we’re all now going to pay for. In Jarry’s play, the padded fat bastards beat and starved their subjects while attaining ever-more riches and power, until a little revolution had the minions chasing their persecutors into the wilderness. Clancy calls his adaptation Fatboy, and Ian Forester directs it like a Punch and Judy puppet show in which the padded clowns punch each other until both are rolling on the floor. Mark Mendelson’s cheesy set comes with the painted-on grime of an old vaudeville theater, fake footlights included. In white-face, Alexander Wells and Rebecca Jordon play Fatboy and Fudgie, a happy-miserable couple who do little but eat money and gleefully hurl abusive epithets at each other — a none-too-subtle dramatization of our own consumer culture. There’s no dramatic arc. It’s not that kind of play. Fatboy screams throughout, and mentions this aspect in one of many asides. He wants pancakes; she wants money. The rest is a stream of creative curses that turn obscenity into an art. The couple actually mentions art more than once, along with catch phrases like “human dignity,” “truth” and “beauty,” before they collapse in paroxysms of laughter. Oh, yes, Fatboy survives his kangaroo trial for international war crimes by mocking the court and murdering his opponents. There’s quite a bit of neck snapping, with sound effects. Just when you’re ready to dismiss all this as beyond over-the-top, the lights dim, and Fatboy turns menacing. He looks straight at us, and holds us accountable for living by the values that have gotten our country exactly where it is now. Fat bastards, that means you. Grand performances also by Alan Simpson, Bobby Reed and Abigail Eiland.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Starts: Sept. 26. Continues through Oct. 26, 2008

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