Shhh... don't tell the Mayor of New York: the second show of the season at off-off-Broadway's Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre will include such elements as a bordello, S&M and politicians engaged in sexual role playing. Has the porn industry moved from 42nd Street to the Bowery? No, it's just a revival of Jean Genet's dark 1956 satire, The Balcony, opening Oct. 10 (after starting previews Oct. 8) at Cocteau Rep and running in repertory through Dec. 16.
Set in a brothel in violent, revolutionary Europe, The Balcony shows how people from all walks of life fall into twisted power plays when they dress up as such figures as a bishop, judge and queen.
Genet, also author of The Maids, rewrote The Balcony several times, and it's generally accepted as an absurdist work, though director Eve Adamson isn't happy with that categorization. In press materials for the show, Adamson said the play's essence is found in its "imperfect role playing" and compared the dress-up to "a drag queen with a five o'clock shadow -- an effect made not by how well you do the impersonation but by the flaw."
Playing in rep with their current hit, On The Razzle, The Balcony features such Cocteau veterans as Harris Berlinsky, Elise Stone, Craig Smith and Molly Pietz. Also in the cast are Angela Madden, Christopher Black, Jennifer Lee Dudek, Marc Diraison, Tim Deak, Jason Crowl, Jolie Garrett and Neil Shaw. Designing the show are Margaret McKowen (costumes), Christopher Martin (sound) and director Adamson (lighting).
* As for On The Razzle, the show has dazzled critics and audiences enough to warrant an extension. Tom Stoppard's comedy, which began previews Aug. 20 and opened Aug. 21, was initially scheduled to run through Oct. 21 but will now play until Nov. 18.
On the Razzle is Stoppard's take on Viennese playwright Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen, the same source material that inspired Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, which in turn inspired Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!. The story concerns two shopkeeps who go out for a day on the town -- and hope their boss doesn't catch them "on the razzle."
Cocteau Rep has previously produced such Stoppard works as Travesties, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Rough Crossing. Former producing artistic director Scott Shattuck, who directed the latter effort, also pilots Razzle.
The cast includes Cocteau stalwarts Smith and Deak as the shopkeepers, as well as Marie-Elena Baldini, Harris Berlinsky, Marilyn Bernard, Christopher Black, Jason Crowell, Christopher Cusumano, Marc Diraison, Jennifer Lee Dudek, Jolie Garrett, Jason Hauser, Angela Madden, Marlene May, Neil Shah and Elise Stone.
The rest of the Cocteau season is as follows:
€ The Servant of Two Masters, the eighteenth-century Italian farce by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Jonathan Polgar, Dec. 3-Feb. 24, 2000.
€ Edward II, Bertolt Brecht's tale (translated by critic and playwright Eric Bentley) of the English king previously dramatized by Christopher Marlowe, directed by Karen Lordi, Jan. 21, 2000-April 20, 2000.
€ Medea, the classic Greek tragedy by Euripides, directed by Eve Adamson, April 7, 2000-May 21, 2000.
All shows and dates are subject to change. Call (212) 677-0060 for more information.
Jean Cocteau Repertory was founded in 1971 by Eve Adamson, in order to create a theatre with a rotating repertory of classic plays with a resident company of actors. Adamson was artistic director until succeeded by Robert Hupp in 1989; she remains a part of the company as its most prolific director.
-- By David Lefkowitz