At last, I have experienced honest-to-God penis envy. Thanks to the alarming talents of Australians David Friend and Simon Morley, I peer down south and, suddenly, the landscape seems rather boring. Such are the effects of "Puppetry of the Penis", a traveling circus that consist of two Australian men keen on displaying the origami of their manipulated genitals.
No one is more amazed than they are that what began as an innocent pub game in Australia, has become an international curiosity. I caught the show at Theatre on the Square in San Francisco and I doubt that place will ever be the same. It takes a lot to shock this town and even more to shock me but they managed. I may have even blushed, something that has not happened since the mid '80s.
Warming up the curious crowd was stand-up comedian, Alexandra McHale, who gave only hints of what was to come. "I thought that hanging out with guys playing with their dicks would really improve my sex life," she said, "but now the bar has been raised. I can only stare now and say, 'Well, is that all it does? Can't you make it into a swan or a brooch or something?'"
Turns out, she was right. Simon and Friendy offer up some disturbing and creative so-called installations. "Vagina Monologues" this is not. There is nothing ponderous about it. Another title might be, "Two Grown Men As Two Little Boys in the Bathtub". When the men both simulate female genitalia with graphic accuracy, I became officially disturbed.
Stand back and watch closely as the men duplicate shapes, both man-made and natural. Delving into the food world, you will be treated to both "Hot Dog" and "Hamburger", both more complicated than you'd imagine. A giant TV screen helps the audience see the effects up close to frightening effect.
Animals are certainly an inspiration for the manboys, especially those of their native Australia. Muppets, international architectural landmarks, and lone images such as, "The Eye" also make appearances.
Expectedly, the press hated it. Much too lowbrow to be called art. This was expected. At one point, Friendy gestured up to the ornate ceiling and asked the crowd with an affected British accent, "How are you enjoying your night at the theater?" This was our warning not to take anything too seriously.
Just a word to the art critics of the world, myself included: Donít forget what true art is, completely organic and spontaneous, like an almost unwilling bastard spore of its parents, culture and era. This is, ultimately, why I have grudging respect for these guys and their creative dicks. How many years now has the female form dominated the art world? Their playfulness is welcome and let's face it, we just don't see enough penis on the stage today.
© 2003 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 11/13/02
Puppetry of the Penis