Eating Raoul, currently on view at Le Petit, is a small musical that tells the tongue-in-cheek saga of the Blands. Mary Bland (the delightful Andrea Frankle) is a hospital nutritionist; Paul Bland (the equally delightful Bob Edes) is an employee at a liquor store. The Blands seem a happy couple, although their love is of a spiritual nature -- that is to say, air kisses pretty much cover the physical part of their intimacy.
The Blands live in Los Angeles, which they hate. Their sustaining dream is to own a small restaurant far, far away in the country. All they have to do is raise enough dough to buy it. But fate is against them -- until, a wickedly easy source of money suggests itself in the form of the wicked urban trough in which they live. For the Blands are surrounded by Tinseltown freaks. These "perverts" (as Paul characterizes the AC/DC swinger set that has orgies in neighboring apartments and generally raises a ruckus). When Paul bops an intrusive "pervert" over the head with a frying pan, Claire discovers the victim has several hundred dollars in his wallet. Eureka! All they have to do, now, is build on this lucky turn of events: advertise, attract more "perverts," whack them upside the head and empty their pockets.
The plot thickens with the entrance of Raoul (a snazzy Brian Peterson), a hilarious mucho-macho nightclub singer cum superintendent cum crook. This high-octane Latin lover proves irresistible to the long-uncuddled Mrs. Bland, who -- by way of a sexual warm-up -- provides individually tailored kinks to a series of clients in her new vocation as a sexpert.
Under Gary Rucker's direction, Frankle, Edes and Peterson keep the laughs coming. They are ably seconded by "Everyone Else": Emily Antrainer, Megan Sauzer Harms, Jessica Roy, Marc Belloni, Kenneth Thompson and Adé Herbert in multiple roles. The five-piece band cooks in 29 rock 'n' roll-ish song numbers. Tip of the hat to Kelly Fourchi for choreography, Michelle Pietri for costumes, and Bill Walker for the set.
If Eating Raoul is outrageous fun, The Maids X 2 is outrageous outrage. Jean Genet wrote the play in 1947. Genet based it on a grisly tabloid murder, and a film version was recently released in France. In the current stage production by EgoPo Productions -- at The Jewel Gallery on Magazine Street -- the play is done first by three women. Then, after a 20-minute break, it is performed again, by three men. In the playbill, director Lane Savadove says the drag version is what Genet intended. Well, here's your chance to see which way the play works best for you: everyday homicidal insanity or surreal homoerotic psychosis.
The Maids (in the female version) takes place in an upper-class French home, where we watch the Madame mistreating her maid. But something is not quite right here. Before long, we realize we are not watching reality, but rather a creepy game being played by two maids, one of whom is dressed up as their employer.
Leah Loftin and Daiva Olson are the maids. They pour themselves into their demented characters with a kinetic zest that at times seems to equate movement with psychic instability. There is a good deal of slapping each other's face and knocking each other down, not to mention the trashing of cut flowers, as Solange and Claire work themselves up to murder. When Madame (Claudia Baumgarten) comes home, she displays the brutal solipsism the maids have been imitating in exaggerated form. This cascade of dementia is riveting, partly because of the conviction of the actresses and partly because it's hard to get straight exactly what is what and who is who in this psychic maze of mirrors.
The set (by Savadove and Nick Lopez) is an elegant bedroom that utilizes the real windows of the theater to good effect. In stark contrast, the set for the male version is a squalid prison cell, with two bare mattresses, a sink and a toilet. For the EgoPo male version, in contrast to others I've seen, is not a drag show.
Andy English and Jason Junius are the "sisters" here. And God only knows what that word means to them. Locked away from the world, these two convicts have lost their grasp on reality. A weird, somewhat sadistic, cross-gender fantasy has totally engulfed them. Chris Lane, an inmate from another cell, enters their waking nightmare as the Madame. All the performances are gripping and brutal. In the ladies' version of the play, reality fades effortlessly into fantasy and vice versa. Here, in prison, the only reality is the obscure emotional need that underlies the role playing. And this need is as mysterious to us, the onlookers, as it is intense. &127;
- Raoul (Brian Peterson, left) brings excitement and more than a little trouble into the lives of the Blands (Bob Edes and Andrea Frankle) in Le Petit's current production of Eating Raoul, The Musical.