Le Petomane offers bold adventures in surrealism

The thinking person’s favorite performers, Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble, raise the bar yet again in their current offering. If you see only one holiday play this year, this is the one that can’t be skipped. So skip-doodle-doo to The Rud to catch their latest joint creation.

“Gladys … of Adventure” was the purported winner of the troupe’s last show, in which the audience voted on its favorite of several shorts. (There may have been some hanging chads on those ballots.) This version is a continuation of the radio serial parody seen last September. Here, we find Gladys (Heather Burns) — librarian by day, reckless adventurer by night — on a quest to Cuba to find a missing detective. She’s a real dish in her no-nonsense gray suit and hair done up in two twists.

Kyle Ware interacts with Gladys in several roles, including lovestruck Lance, chauffeur Jenkins and Fidel Castro. As the radio announcer, Tony Dingman reincarnates all those narrator guys from bygone radio days, with a voice that makes every detail seem crucial. Gregory Maupin is the professor who sends Gladys on her adventure. “Godspeed,” he says, bidding her adieu, “and so has my nephew.” With that, we hear Kristie Rolape’s interpretation of a baby whose nappy needs changing.
Abigail Maupin dazzles as zombie cabaret singer Gretchen DuBois. She outshines Lotte Lenya, belting out these nonsensical lyrics:
A la recherché du Frank Perdu
Mit scheken-bake ein Kaiser roll,
Le Coq, le vin, et un chanson,
Schnell mach der vishen-macken bone
De l’oublie, De oubli-da, la vie goson,
le blah mon blah.

 Effortlessly, Maupin slips into a Wisconsin cheese-head (think Marge from “Fargo”) accent while giving Gladys the lowdown on the missing gumshoe, who was trying to discover who stole Castro’s Christmas tree and ham. If all this seems a bit surreal, just wait, it gets weirder. And weirder.

You might not get all the jokes, but you’ll clamor to tune in next time for Episode 54, “Havana Good Time, Wish You Were Here!” or “Castro Your Fate to the Wind.”

The surrealism is even more bizarre in “A Very Special Holiday Special.” And wow, is it special. Do I dare call it an operetta? The musical numbers sure are swell.
Industrious elves are trying to make their quota while the radio plays painfully perky music. Elf Cindy Fay (Abigail Maupin) mindlessly sings along, while Elf Kenny (Ware) can’t stand the pain and goes mad. Swedish Elf Jensen Hensen (Dingman) works quietly in the background. No one seems to know who he is. Elfin Professor Nedrick (Gregory Maupin) stops by with his schematics for a new robot that looks a lot like Cindy Fay. Mrs. Claus (Burns) drops in to chastise Nedrick for not making the elves more productive.

Kenny, now a rampaging giant elf, heads to New York in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. He’s as frightening as Sean “Rat” Garrison in his wildest Kinghorse days. TV announcer Benson Henson thanks the sponsor, U.S. American National Bank, whose slogan is, “where your financial ruin is what keeps us goin’. Keeping our customers’ heads barely above water since 1928.” Kenny promptly eats him. And just wait ’til you see what Kenny does to the Louisville skyline!

Le Petomane really lays it on the line in their criticism of certain entrenched local holiday theatrical productions. Professor Nedrick says, “These artists prey on the sincere holiday feelings of good people, out for a good time. But cheap sentiment can be as sweetly addictive as candy — and easier to sell. Sure, it’s good business. But shame on them.” How boldly subversive!

Le Petomane is the well-honed edge of cutting-edge theater. They prove once more the value of ensemble playing as they keep getting better all the time. If only they’d perform someplace other than The Rudyard Kipling, which isn’t quite dinner theater at its finest. But don’t let that stop you. A little grit is good for the soul.

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‘Gladys … of Adventure’ &
‘A Very Special Holiday Special’
Presented by Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble. Starring Heather Burns, Tony Dingman, Abigail Bailey Maupin, Gregory Maupin, Kristie Rolape and Kyle Ware. Continues Dec. 7-9 at The Rudyard Kipling. For more info, visit www.lepetomane.org or call 454-4477.