Though its box office has steadily climbed in the weeks since the reviewers drubbed it, Squonk -- the Pittsburgh-born, avant-garde, music-theatre piece -- has not managed to drum up quite enough business to secure its hold on the Helen Hayes Theatre. Producer William Repicci told Playbill On-Line that Helen Hayes owner Martin Markinson has enforced the stop clause, a proviso in the rental agreement which allows theatre owners to evict a show if its proceeds fall below a certain level two weeks straight.
Squonk will close either this Sunday, March 26, or the next Sunday. An exact date will be fixed upon soon.
Dirty Blonde, the Claudia Shear play which proved a hit at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop earlier this season, will be the next tenant at the Helen Hayes. Gerald Schoenfeld of the Shubert Organization, which is backing Blonde, told Variety an opening date would be announced later this week.
Repicci told Playbill On-Line that he and the Squonk troupe were interested in keeping the show running, perhaps transferring it to a smaller house Off-Broadway. Squonk's show, called Bigsmorgasbordwunderwerk, had its New York premiere at Off-Off Broadway's P.S. 122 in late summer 1999. The eccentric show received good reviews but was unable to find an appropriate theatre for an extended commercial run until it unexpectedly grabbed the coveted Helen Hayes Theatre after Epic Proportions closed. The show, now titled after the theatre company, began previews Feb. 8 and officially opened on Broadway Feb. 29. However, it did not have good luck with the critics the second time around (including the New York Times, which liked the show in its P.S. 122 incarnation), and has since struggled to find an audience.
Squonk was founded in 1992 as Squonk Opera, and has toured the U.S. and Canada extensively. What is Squonk? Well... think of it as a cross between avant-garde theatre, performance art, physical comedy and modern dance, with elements of Twyla Tharp, Laurie Anderson, Blue Man Group, Riverdance, Enya and Julie Taymor cropping up throughout. If there's an actual plot, it involves the serving of a banquet, with the lead singer dancer, Jana Losey, being eaten -- and digested -- by a giant monster. Sort of. For tickets and information on Squonk at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th Street, call (212) 239-6200.