Tis the season for Macbeth y’all. For one, it seems like you’ll never stop hearing about Sleep No More, and what with having survived the weeklong bender of that tipsy Macbeth production, which took place inside a distillery, you might think we’d all be feeling pretty hungover from all of it, weary of sipping from Shakespeare’s tragic chalice any time soon. But nay, this is one of those cases where you swore off the drink, so to speak, but returned with vigor (which is to say each and every time). This week, get your Macbeth hair of the dog and head to a psycho-sexual parody of the play (because everyone knows the best cure for a hangover is…) perhaps even more transgressive than that $100 plus tourist trap.
This weekend, Stairwell Theater is staging Ubu Rex, an immersive evening of debauchery and cabaret at Aviv, and you’re invited to partake in the revelry and grime at a “post-apocalyptic dinner party.”
The script is adapted from Ubu Roi written by the 19th-century French symbolist playwright, Alfred Jarry, a work that (in hindsight) foreshadowed modernism. The satirical play assailed the bourgeoisie for their greediness and thirst for power, and Jarry shocked his contemporaries with the very first productions of Ubu Roi. In fact, the play was considered so vulgar when it opened in 1896, the audience rioted and it was shut down the very same day.
That pearl-clutching audience would have been even more appalled to see Sam Gibbs’s interpretation.
The director pushes the show into dirty new territory. A far cry from his last effort — a mellow production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, complete with a picnic in Prospect Park — Ubu Rex employs ample fake blood and scatological references. Trash bags are handed out to guests, who are advised to wear them if that gives you any hint.
The story follows Ma and Pa Ubu, an upper-middle class couple who are just trying to make ends meet in a post-apocalyptic world, and plotting to take over Poland as soon as they’re finished with their dinner party.
Gibbs describes the set as “a very trashy American environment, with a slight cabaret twist.” To fit with the theme of “inmates taking over the asylum,” all the actors wear white base costumes with strange accessories on top. “It’s like if this group of people found this abandoned warehouse and this was their idea of Poland– after they escaped an insane asylum and broke into a toy store,” he explained.
Besides getting splattered with fake blood, the audience might be compelled to arm wrestle or toast with the actors before the show gets started. There’s also the potential of engaging in a massive food fight. Which means, free food! That is, if you’re hungry for Wonderbread and canned Ravioli. Don’t forget to save room for dessert: “Polish broth” will be served, which Gibbs revealed is a concoction of chocolate syrup and raisins, which actually sound pretty freaking delicious.
“It’s very trashy and very DIY-dirty,” said Gibbs. “It’s a big release for the audience. You can come and let down your guard and let it all hang out for a little while.”
Gibbs chose to recreate Ubu Roi because it matched his feeling about the world today. “It’s a farce about dictators like Hitler or even what Donald Trump would be like– not to get too political,” he said. “The play itself is about a dictator who takes over as a kind of revolutionary and all he really wants is to satisfy himself.”
So what’s with the scatology? “[I’m] trying to take people like Trump and Hitler and be like: they are just disgusting animals– shitting, eating human beings. We can relate to it, and we can defend ourselves against it,” Gibbs explained.
Each show ends with a regular music show like you’d see at Aviv any night, a nice way to bring you back to reality and, as Gibbs explained, something that helps the audience “cut loose and work out some of the feelings that come up.” (Hopefully you’re not overly doused in fake blood and that Polish broth whatever– unless of course that’s your thing, in which case, cheers!) Tonight the Pendulum Swings is the band in residence, with front man Jason Trachtenburg, formerly of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow.