Phallic Fables: A Rabelaisian Epic
nytheatre.com review by Lucile Scott
May 4, 2008
Oddly for a play with such a bawdy name, Phallic Fables: A Rabelaisian Epic is about the absence of sex, though erect cardboard penises do play a prominent role in the production. The show consists of two one-hour long plays, The Women Strike and Menage a Trois, with a shorter third play, Cloning Around, being added to the lineup on Sundays.
Each of the three plays involves a scenario that causes sex to disappear on a mass scale. In The Women Strike, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal, and declared all contraceptives unconstitutional, causing women across the nation to go on strike and stop having sex with men. Tony King plays the President of the United States with a slight Southern accent and slick oblivious confidence, not to mention an ever-present pink phallus, that convincingly drives the narrative as he comically bumbles through handling the strike and trying to deal with his wife and his mistress, both played by Danielle Suder.
Some interesting points are made about how laws regarding sex and abortion have repercussions mostly for the woman carrying the child and not the man, and legal efforts are made to change this injustice. In this and the other two plays men are mostly portrayed as bumbling and piloted by those phalluses.
The second play, Menage A Trois, involves an apocalyptic scenario in which the word "hope" vanishes from all dictionaries and then all penises suddenly disappear, meaning the human race can no longer reproduce. It is a good premise for the end of the human race and that plot is entertainingly interwoven with skits involving the creation of humanity and the Garden of Eden, portraying the serpent as a penis. The play shows the impact of these tragic events on several parties including a zipper manufacturer and the man who once cured erectile dysfunction, with all male roles played by Oliver Thrun and all female roles by Jessica Day, who both slide from character to character smoothly and with excellent comic timing. However, because it is a series of skits and a farce, it feels much too long and leaves one not so much caring that it is the end of the world.
The third play, Cloning Around, begins with a statement by the lovely and fabulously attitudinal Avia Bushyhead that sometime in the past women gained the dominant role in society and made everyone clones of the prettiest girl and the most popular boy in town and that all other reproductive strategies, meaning sex, were forgotten. While it is never explained why women, if given control over the world, would want a sexless world in which everyone looks the same, Bushyhead and her male costar Lei Zhou do a hilarious job of playing three cloned couples that look exactly like one another.
While Phallic Fables is an entertaining romp through bizarre and cataclysmic sexual politics of the future, it does not really dig beneath farce into the actual relations between the sexes sufficiently to sustain a two-and-a-half hour play. Not to mention the fact that if all men couldn't have sex, women would most likely turn to lesbianism in droves...but that, I suppose, is another story.