New Yorkers who've been hard up for unusual theatre this summer will have a stretch of good fortune this season: The Australian-London cult hit, Puppetry of the Penis, is coming to Off-Broadway's John Houseman Theatre, current home of Lobby Hero, which ends Sept. 2.
In September 2000, London's Whitehall Theatre opened "Puppetry of the Penis," featuring two Australian men who "manipulate their genitalia into various shapes, objects and landmarks." Described in the show's UK press release as "well endowed," performers Simon Morley and David Friend (nicknamed Simon and Friendly) spend 70 minutes engaging in the ancient Australian art of "Genital Origami." To the layman, that means they bend, twist and stretch themselves do impressions of such items as the Loch Ness Monster, a hamburger, bow tie, wrist watch, bullfrog, atomic mushroom, windsurfer, wedding ring, sea anemone, slow-emerging mollusc, 3-wood golf club and the Eiffel Tower. A video camera and TV monitors help ensure that audiences don't miss a single "dick trick."
The show is currently touring the UK after a swing through Canada, with the last date listed on the company's website (www.puppetryofthepenis.com) being Sept. 21-22 at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich. The show then quickly zips up to the Houseman, starting previews Sept. 25 for an opening Oct. 5. According to production spokespersons at Boneau/Bryan-Brown, tickets go onsale Aug. 27 via Telecharge, (212) 239 6200.
Like Blue Man Group, Puppetry has apparently broadened its casting past its two originators and is (according to the website) "constantly holding auditions for Penis Puppeteers." One new puppeteer, David J. Foster, told BroadwayOnline, "Regarding male nudity, New Yorkers will embrace it as they have done with The Full Monty and Naked Boys Singing. Of course, our show starts where The Full Monty finishes!"
After debuting in Melbourne, "Puppetry" toured Australia, a long and hard journey documented in the film, "Tackle Happy," whose marketing slogan was, "2 Men, 2 Dicks, 2 Much Spare Time." Despite mismanagement early on, "Puppetry" went on to enjoy a hit run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is where producers David Johnson and Richard Temple caught up with it. They realized the show was something special when the woman sitting next to them became incontinent while watching Simon and Friendly's impersonation of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Strangest of all is the fact that the show kicked out of the Whitehall Theatre to make room for Puppetry sounded even more bizarre: Cooking With Elvis, a dark comedy about a teenager whose father, a part-time Elvis impersonator, is reduced to a vegetative state by a car accident. That show was to have extended its own successful run, but the King was dethroned by the Puppeteers. Oddly enough, Elvis is getting its U.S. premiere this summer, courtesy of Massachusetts' Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, July 27-Sept. 2.
— By David Lefkowitz