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Theatre

[Stage]

Up to the job

When words and body parts collide

Jacob Coakley

Mac Wellman’s 7 Blowjobs, put on by Cockroach Theatre at the Onyx, now through October 4, is a modern satire that discards straightforward dialogue and naturalism to achieve an overall surreal effect, gaining meaning through repetition and disassociation—say something nonsensical long enough with the right intonation and the words can take on new force. In this case, the ravings of a right-wing senator’s office staff become ever more harried as they examine seven unnatural, disgusting, yet utterly hot photographs that have been delivered to the office, trying to determine if they are, in fact, pornographic pictures at all. It’s hard to tell—parts have been swollen beyond recognition; others are completely disassociated from areas of the body where they should be attached and have been made ambiguous. (Is that the Pope, or the senator’s son?)

The Details

From the Calendar
7 Blowjobs
Three and a half stars
October 3, 8 and 11 p.m.; October 4, 8 p.m.
Onyx Theater
953 E. Sahara Ave, 732-7225
$15-$18

Wellman’s text mirrors the ambiguous state of the pictures, providing space for the audience to fill in what audacities are contained in the pictures, and wiggle room for the jokes about sex (which are plenty, and funny). Body parts are separated from body parts, meaning from words, and finally, the lines demarcating self and others become blurred and eradicated. What is in the pictures, and what is in us, and what parts of us are in the pictures have become confused and melded together. The indecency is all in us.

Unfortunately, plays like this almost always contain one solid thesis statement where the scope of the play is laid out succinctly and coherently, abandoning both absurdity and complexity, and 7 Blowjobs is no different, dissolving into a neat commentary on government corruption and right-wing moral hypocrisy.

It’s a tall order to carry all that theory into performance, and Cockroach isn’t quite up to it, but the piece is funny and sharp enough to work even without this level—the production is hysterical, instead of sublime. The first act is dominated by Dot, the office receptionist (played by Mundana Ess-Haghabadi), and office staffers Eileen (Evelyn Barnett) and Bruce (Levi Fackrell). Their examination of the pictures and each other, and everyone’s intermittent submission to the lust engendered by the photos, makes for a hysterical office scene that plays like a pornographic, comedic Lord of the Flies. The second act mixes religion into the fray, and Taylor Hanes steals the show as the grounded Senator Bob, who takes all the strangeness in stride. His ending speech skewering absolutely everyone in the political canon is priceless, and not for those among us who are even remotely right-wing.

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