Puppetry of the Penis – Los Angeles Theater
THE WRONGEST SHOW IN TOWN
by John Topping
published February 28, 2010
Puppetry of the Penis
now playing in Los Angeles at the Coast Playhouse
through March 28
I never knew that I was a prude until I attended Puppetry of the Penis at the Coast Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Silly me; since it had played, among other venues, at the Edinburgh Theater Festival as well as Off Broadway for a respectable run in New
York, I had this strange idea that, whatever else it was, it would be first and foremost theater.
If ever it once was theater, I cannot say, but what it either has now become or, perhaps, has always been, is a crass display of sophomoric
In the off chance that you've never heard of it, Puppetry of the Penis is a couple of guys who perform nude onstage to demonstrate the so-called "ancient
art of genital origami," stretching and twisting their junk into mildly amusing contortions;
sort of like shadow puppets, only with genitalia and without the shadows. I knew this going in
– it is, after all, the main attraction – but for some reason, I was expecting a sense of showmanship, a sense of theatrics, even a bit of
artistry. Certainly it couldn't have lasted this long and played in so many cities and
countries if it was little more than a hastily-produced cheap thrill, right?
Oh, so wrong. The
performers, Rich Binning and Christopher J. Cannon, are supposedly an "A-team" among the many trained "puppeteers" that now inhabit the
planet. It gives one pause to think of what a B- or C-team would have been like. Although they are extremely comfortable in their nudity, which I find admirable, and they can stretch their
dicks and balls with a ferocity that could be considered enviable, their stage presence is more akin to kids putting on a show in the basement
for the neighbors. Aside from the "dick tricks" themselves, there is a shocking and unforgiveable
lack of imagination in the proceedings. It seemed as if it had been staged without a
A closer look at the program credits reveals the problem – there is,
in fact, no director. Thus, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the performers, who can't
direct themselves and don't know that they are presenting themselves as utter amateurs. The
blame must be directed at Foster Entertainment, the producers of the show, who are reputable and should know better; but apparently, this is
nothing more than a gravy train: promise them penises and the audiences will come. Why waste money on something as frivolous as a director?
More fascinating than the stage antics was the audience
itself. The demographic is aimed squarely at straight women over 35, who swarm in en masse, via
group sales, for the penultimate Ladies' Night Out (second to Chippendale's, which I imagine is a similar atmosphere), and have, by either
instruction or instinct, had at least one more margarita than usual. Thoroughly intoxicated in
order to face the confrontation of seeing a real live penis with their friends, I've never been among a more boisterous audience outside of a
stadium. I'm glad they had a good time, but in their spirited state, they thought nothing of
literally pushing my companion out of the seat he was about to sit in. Territorial creatures,
they had already chosen the seat as their own. Alcohol Consumption + Anticipation of Seeing Some
Cock = Very Dangerous Women.
Of course, the penis puppeteers encourage the … should I go ahead and
say it? cougars? … with lines like, "I hope you had a couple of drinks before the show before you watch this next one" and "How many
birthday girls are in the audience tonight?" In fact, a private birthday party would have been
ideal for this presentation. But at least the women were able to provide something otherwise
much-needed and missing – theater.
johntopping @ stageandcinema.com
instructional photos are from the book of the same name