Ironically, and full of unintended consequences, while watching Pointless Theatre’s production of Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu (yes, that’s who wrote this play, translated afresh by Google), I couldn’t help but think of President-elect Donald Trump.
Not the real Donald Trump, perhaps (but who knows), but at least the Donald Trump that inhabits our media’s worst nightmares.
Full of pomp! Full of Crap! Full of a desperate nation’s greatest fears and cravings! Pa Ubu (played, by the way by, a delightfully spindly Colin Connor) becomes King, not through the electoral process mind you but through Macbethian mean spiritedness.
Did I mention Ma Ubu (played by a wonderfully less spindly but far more ferocious Haely Jardas) became Queen?
King and Queen, thankfully of Poland, in the play, and not the good old United States.
Equally thankfully, our Founding Fathers established a political system that would prevent such hypocrisies from ever taking place. That, plus the wisdom of the American people. That, plus the educational effectiveness of our corporate press. Wait, what?
If only the real world’s greed and violence could be so much Pointless fun.
If all the world’s a stage, then why not? Pa Trump and Ma Trump! After all, I heard last night that Donald Trump was considering Pa Ubu for Treasury Secretary. And why not, that’s the pointlessness of it all, isn’t it?
I’m certain that the Pointless folks and Director Frank Labovitz, when they chose King Ubu for their post-election Christmas show, didn’t consider its political implications in The Donald’s America.
How could they? A Trump presidency would have been thought of in the same farcical terms as a Pa Ubu presidency. Good for a laugh, perhaps (but who knows), but not a mind-altering, wake-up America world.
Will a Trump presidency render such farcical delights as a Pointless King Ubu redundant? Or counter-intuitive? Will the stage become more real than our political reality? Or less absurd? (I mean, really, how can theatre of the absurd compete with our current Trump-Media Circus?)
Again, if only our real world’s greed and violence could be so much fun as this Pointless production.
Then again, with the right mind set, even genocide can be a riot of good times, right?
So we should cover our eyes whenever a consequence pops up, like a bobble-head doll, or like one of King Ubu’s ministers (Patti Kalil and Rachel Menyyuk’s puppets truly did not deserve their fate)—flushed!
With all this talk of farce and mayhem, carried out by a magnificient ensemble of antic-makers (Madeline Key, Lee Gerstenhaber, Sarah Wilby, Nick Martin, Scott Whalen, Mary Myers), I mustn’t forget the most fabulous music of Mike Winch, which—like the best maple syrup—helped even the beheadings go down with a smile of their faces.
Or the stupendously comical costumes by Ivania Stack.
And then there’s that anomaly (one must never forget an anomaly).
Madeline Key as this tale’s hero, Bourgelas, mourns his dying mother, the most dignified Queen of Puppets. Plopped like a mango into a sea of crab apples, the audience wept.
Okay, not really wept, but we felt something for this singular death, of a puppet no less, but an arm’s length away from her son.
I hoped for a repeat performance later in the play. Not of a dying Queen of Puppets, but of some other something—a dying Pa Ubu perhaps (but who knows).
Alas, such a hope is like hoping for the spirit of Pa Ubu not to take possession of our next president.
Thus, Americans dream of faithless electoral college voters, or of a last-minute electoral audit, or of that perfect proof of a Putin-tampering with the will of the “real” people, or of just being pinched in the ass and waking up to a different America, an America where greed and pomp and violence don’t rule the day and night.
But alas, such a hope is but the hope of Ma and Pa Ubu, as they travel forth with their faithful electorate to find residence in a new and even more Pointless country, a country near you.
Running Time: Two hours, with an intermission.
‘King Ubu’ at Pointless Theatre Company reviewed by Michael Poandl on DCMetroTheaterArts.