Ramblings of a Gentleman Scumbag
nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
February 24, 2010
John Murdock is a scumbag. This is not my judgment call—Murdock says so himself, and will be the first one to tell you. What does—or does not, as is sometimes the case—makes him a scumbag? Well, that's pretty much the crux of his show, Ramblings of a Gentleman Scumbag.
As Murdock quickly points out, he is not your father's balloon man. In fact, he works as a dirty balloon man at Lucky Cheng's, the cross-dressing themed restaurant in the East Village. He spends a good deal of time in this show ranting about the clientele—mostly bachelorettes.
The FRIGID Festival is becoming one of my favorite festivals, mainly because of its selections of shows. This is a piece that lives up to its title. There are certainly ramblings to be found, and Murdock is, oddly, diametrically, both a gentleman and a bit of a scumbag. Actually, he's not really much of a scumbag, unless you count an odd encounter with a life-size chicken (Joe Yoga) and the would-be seduced Bride-To-Be (Natalie Underwood). Most of the time he's just the good guy with a college degree who ended up in a strange, sometimes very twisted place. Mostly it's his own fault, and he's willing to admit that because it's made for a few good stories.
As a performer, Murdock is generally comfortable in front of the live audience, although at times he seems to prefer interacting with his genitalia balloon creations than the room full of beautiful bachelorettes. His show seems to be less theatrical, with a plot and storyline, than spoken-word performance. This is not a bad thing.
There are moments in Ramblings that are quite moving. There are also moments where it seems Murdock's train of thought is derailing. Regardless, I was always interested in what he was going to say, or do, or—in some cases—create with balloons next.
The lighting design (Brian "Breezy" Douglas) and sound design by (uncredited) are not much help to Murdock's ramblings. Under St. Marks is a rather small theatre, and these two elements seem non-existent at times (which I always prefer) and overpowering at others. Everything works best when allowing Murdock to remain the center of attention.
I enjoyed Murdock's interaction with the rest of the cast (Scout Durwood, Sherri Eldin, Sara Gaddis, Paulina Princess of Power; as bachelorettes) and would liked to have seen more of them. Understandably, though, it's Murdock's show, and his ramblings.
The direction, under the hand of JP Schuffman, seems to ramble at times, too, but in a good way. Mostly it feels like Schuffman preferred to leave the rambling to the professional rambler, a good choice. As for props, well, no prop master is listed, but let's just say that Murdock is very good at his job. My only critique is I wish he'd provided a few mementos for the audience. Some of those balloon creations will not be soon forgotten.