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      Now That Communism Is Dead My Life Feels Empty
    Red or not, here they come

    "Now That Communism Is Dead My Life Feels Empty" is Richard Foreman's absurdist take on the onslaught of post-Cold War youngsters coming downtown to take a walk on the mild side.


    Foremanites beware — here come the babies . . .

    Richard Foreman is the reigning Granddaddy of downtown theater. His work was recently serialized in a three-year summer festival at Todo con Nada on Ludlow Street curated by uber Foreman devotee Ian Hill, a young director who has patterned not only his artistic but his personal aesthetic after the grand master himself.

    Company: Ontological-Hysteric Theater.
    Written by: Richard Foreman.
    Cast: Jay Smith, Tony Torn.

    Related links: Official site
    The night after I saw Foreman's latest, "Now That Communism is Dead My Life Feels Empty," I dreamt I was sitting next to the author-director atop a wooden table. I was wearing a baby bonnet and a marmoset monkey tail squeezing his thigh with my right hand, holding a notebook in my left. I listening intently as he lectured me seriously about the state of American theater, and neither of us acknowledged my unusual outfit or presumptuous touch.

    Sitting in the Ontological-Hysteric Theater on the night of the performance, I spotted many of the downtown scenesters and Foreman regulars reflected through the large pieces of Plexi-glass fronting the stage — Lower East Side impresarios, ex-Foreman performers / current sitcom players and various assorted woolly haired, bifocaled types.

    "Now that Communism is Dead My Life Feels Empty" is an absurd conversation between two Foreman alter-egos, Fred and Freddie, the long-haired rockstar and the effete general, played by Jay Smith and Tony Torn and set against a collection of faded photographs and multilingual nonsense scribbles in three alphabets. The caricatured performances, the Billy Bob Thorton drawl of the one and the snooty, bored nasal tone of the other, are hilarious — making for characters much more free than the typical Foreman lead players. Freddie clearly wants to be Fred, demanding his cool shoes, and Fred is mildly interested in Freddie, securing details about his dog, neatly kept in a wooden box. Their dialogue is slow and sporadic, and sometimes clever and the stage is cleared every ten minutes or so by a spurt of machine-gun fire before the actors slink back on.

      Now That Communism Is Dead My Life Feels Empty
    The Freds are serviced by six belly-baring dancers (five women and a man), flitting on and off stage singly or as a group, tying up the leads in bondage, stroking them or performing little dance numbers with handheld revolving mirrors. Included are several inventive masturbation sequences from the men and the dancers, with pillows and various other props. Foreman in his signature style drops in voiceovers from the back of the theater including one halfway through the evening announcing that the play is over — but the seasoned Foreman fans are not fooled and remain in their seats.

    The belly dancers progress in costume adding bottom-bulging monkey tails clearly ready to mate and ending most tellingly each with their own baby mask — alarming the Freds. The message is clear — the babies are here, and en masse. A plastic ball filled with baby dolls is wheeled in for a grand finale as Fred attempts to pop it with a sledgehammer and Freddie holds it aloft once in a while allowing Fred to give it a non-fatal tap.

    Foreman laments a world that he describes in the program as "the nightmare of a life in which selfish private pleasure is promoted as the only safe haven." Where once-championed political ideologies, like communism, have long since been discredited, the new brand of downtown artists are well-fed suburbanites experienced in the pleasure principle. The political stomping ground of Foreman's New York '60s youth exists no longer. What emerged is a relentless stream of incoming babies renewed by each college graduating class, anxious to ingratiate themselves to the reigning masters of The Art. A trend, Foreman clearly depicts as overwhelming, frightening, titillating and pleasurable — alternately wanting to kill the babies as the red-caped Fred and kind of save them like big-booted Freddie.

    The iconoclastic Foreman after over 30 years of performance and a MacArthur fellowship has become institutionalized and the babies are hot on his trail. Internships are now available for his 2001-02 production "Transcendental Race Car Drivers"; call (212) 420-1916 if interested.

    FEBRUARY 26, 2001

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