Distribution Automatique

Monday, February 2

*King Cowboy Rufus Rules The Universe* by Richard Foreman
opened at Ontological at The St Mark's Poetry Project, 2cd
Avenue and 10th street (212)533-4650 on January 8th and will
continue until April 18th. If you go by the list on the playbill, this
is the 40th play of Foreman's to be produced.

Don't miss it. It is a joy to behold,
though its subject is, of course,
among the most obnoxious possible.
At the end of the play, Richard's recorded voiced intones
over the loudspeaker that the audience,
in lightly applauding, will
not , in fact, be applauding the subject of the play.

Foreman has this to say
on the first page of the playbill:" I always
feel that my overriding obligation is to
make a complex compositional
object that gives aesthetic pleasure...
though I am anti-Bush and anti-
war- I don't find it artistically satisfying to simply
'preach to the converted'....
The solution I attempt in "King Cowboy
Rufus Rules the Universe" is to put on stage,
not George Bush
himself but a foppish English
gentleman who, while seeming a
figure out of the past- yet
dreams of becoming an imitation
George Bush- acquiring that
same power and manifesting
similar limits of vision..."

Toni and I went with
Nada Gordon (ululations) {click here} and Gary Sullivan (Elsewhere) {click here}.
While Toni has probably been to at least 15 of these plays,
and I have probably been to at least
25, this is the second for Gary and Nada.
All four of us left the theater feeling exhilirated
as I said so to Richard, who happened to trot
by as we were leaving. By the way, Richard
has been present at virtually every
performance of his plays that I have seen.

Lately, Foreman's plays have moved closer to
music and this work featured a number of songs,
a couple of them sung in a hauntiingly light,
lovely voice by the superb Juliana Francis, who plays Susie Sitwell.
The lead player, Jay Smith, who
plays gun-toting King Cowby Rufus in a huge cowboy hat,
is hilariously funny. He manages the extremely difficult task
of making every line sound like what they are,
lines of poetry. This is surely one of the best
lead player performances in one of Foreman's recent plays
since Tony Torn starred in *Now That Communism
Is Dead My Life Feels Empty.* I notice that Jay Smith
had a role in that play. I can't help mentioning, that still,
after many years of absence from Richard's plays,
I miss the presence of his brilliant wife Kate Manheim,
(Rhoda of "Rhoda in Potatoland" among many others).
Her genius is as yet revealed in the
performance of every lead actress in
Foreman's works.

As in most of Richard's plays, the audience plays an important
role. The stage lights always shine equally on the
audience and the stage. In this one,
Jay Smith frequently climbs a set of stairs
that leads out into the audience. At one point he urges himself,
to return to the world of the
stage and imagination where "nothing
is real." No doubt this is allusion to the clear
fact that to George Bush nothing appears
to be real.

While the witty, complex, visually awesome
stage set (constructed my Michael Darling
and Paul DiPietro) remains constant throughout
the play, there are literally scores of scenes
as in every Foreman play. In this case, as I mentioned
to Richard afterwards, the transitions were so smooth
that they were, amazingly, nearly invisible. This is a result,
no doubt, of the long experience Richard has as a director
of his own plays. This brings about the strange paradox
that, although each scene lasts only a few minutes, the
transitions are never disruptive because the choreography
of these transformations is rhythmically entrancing. Which
returns me to the musical aspect of Foreman's work.

As we were leaving, Gary mentioned the fact that, although
the play is political satire, it is still extremely abstract. As we
know, music is the most abstract of the arts. It seems to me
that Foreman is among the greatest abstractionist of our era, and
this in an era with many great abstractionists, from Rauchenberg
and James Rosenquist to Gertrude Stein to
Jackson MacLow and John Ashbery, to, at some
their best moments, the Beatles. It is for this reason, perhaps,
that Foreman's work keeps evolving closer to music- and pure poetry-
(TS Eliot's "April is the cruellest month" is quoted twice-
perhaps partly referring to the
fact that the play closes in April,) and the play also includes a
quote from my favorite of all books of poetry *The Duino Elegies*
"Who, if I shouted among the angelic orders, would hear me", although
I prefer the the McIntyre translation of Rilke's most famous line,
"Who, if I shouted among the hierarchies of angels, would hear me?"
What more apropos line could a poet utter in the Age of King Bush?

Richard Foreman/EPC Home Page {click here}