Zappa's Everymusician

Joe (Jason Paige) wants to play music. But after a neighbor (Maia Madison) files a noise complaint with the cops on his garage band, Joe and his girl Mary (Becky Wahlstrom) fall prey to a domino chain of gang rape, venereal disease, wet T-shirt contests, prison time, cyborg threesomes and madness. What’s to blame? “Music,” hisses the Central Scrutinizer (Michael Dunn), a robot narrator dangling from the rafters — certainly not the religious and government figures who sure seem to be pulling the strings. Like novelist Terry Southern, Frank Zappa’s weapon against hypocrisy was to confront audiences with a circus mirror of their culture’s greed and lust. Some saw their reflection; others argued Zappa was warped. Pat Towne and Michael Franco’s world premiere staging of Zappa’s narrative album crackles with outrage and grief masked by a leer — Jennifer Lettelleir choreographs plenty of sex, but like Robert Crumb’s comics, it’s more repellent than titillating. Musical director Ross Wright and the seven-piece band help the snappy ensemble animize Zappa’s eclectic sound, which ranges from dissonant juggernauts to deceptively sweet ditties. Per Zappa’s request, the song “Watermelon in Easter Hay” plays once his hapless Everyman has succumbed to creative censorship; the band puts down their instruments, turns off the lights and cues Zappa’s original version. In that isolating darkness, Zappa’s limber guitar feels like a lifeline — we’re struck by our need for music, and our need for today’s apolitical musicians to break loose and write the next chorus.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Sept. 26. Continues through Dec. 20, 2008

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