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  •  REVIEW: KING COWBOY RUFUS RULES THE UNIVERSE

    King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe

    Send in the crowns

    Richard Foreman's latest raucous creation, "King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe," lets you seek out your own meaning in it, but makes no secret of its relevance to the reign of our present-day clown prince.

    By JOSEPH LANGHAM
    Offoffoff.com

    My, what a big hat. It sets at an odd angle atop a rather odd, effete and large man who is speaking with a drawn out royal accent to an odd, yet seemingly smaller man wearing a chalk board that speaks in classic, yet rhythmic Brooklynese as they are both in adoration of a lovely lass, who speaks... very... deliber..ate...ly. Sound strange? It is! Who is this Rufus? Is he cowboy, or is he fop? Is he just another John Wayne in Malvolio's clothing? What power does he crave? Does the Baron stand in his way, or is he somehow a co-conspirator helping him to achieve his lofty goals? What does Susie have to do with anything? These are some of the many questions left deftly unanswered by the great, inimitable, Mr. Richard Foreman. How on earth is one to review such madness? Why is there no entry for "madness" in the thesaurus? Why will this word occur so oft in this review? These are questions left unanswered by a rather unworthy reviewer.

      
    KING COWBOY RUFUS RULES THE UNIVERSE
    Company: Ontological-Hysteric Theater.
    Written and directed by: Richard Foreman.
    Cast: Juliana Francis, Jay Smith, T. Ryder Smith.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Ontological Theater
    131 E.10th St.
    Jan. 8 - April 18, 2004

    Let us start with a general description of the evening denying any temptation to get, shall we say, avant-reviewish. When we walk into the famed Ontological-Hysteric Theater we are greeted by a line of people, who like us, wish they had arrived much earlier. Alas, we have not, and everyone seems a little tense in getting a seat. Silly Americans, not everything is about you, you, you. And so, we, we, we take our seats and proceed to enjoy ourselves quite immensely and at times quite fanatically. The set is pure bright madness with ropes, classical paintings, kooky splashes of clashing colors, and a mass assortment of odds and ends dangling dangerously from the ceiling. It is, perhaps, comparable to "Alice in Wonderland" with no Alice and no Wonderland. First, the audience is greeted by The Baron Herman De Voto, the deadpan owner of a soon to be defunct cigarrette factory. He introduces us to Susie Sitwell whom he would like to attempt the old blindfold, cigarette and knife trick. He rares back, knife in hand and decides against it. These first few moments set the pace of the evening and let us know that we are in for an extremely bizarre ride full of, yes, you guessed it, madness. Then, in ambles King Cowboy Rufus. Oh, and the glorious, revolutionary mayhem ensues...

    King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe  
    There is at this particular point in a review such as this, an enticement to attempt to interpret the hidden message of such a quirky play. To attempt such an interpretation would be, to put it bluntly, wrong. To say what one feels each character and their actions represent, would serve only to take this opportunity away from a prospective audience member. So at that we will leave any interpretations up to you. And you should definitely go see it. And you should spend hours with your friends picking it apart. What fun!

    The bleedingly obvious character reference and one that is touted in the program and on the website is that King Cowboy Rufus is an artistic typification of the greed that lies deep within the leader of our current administration. In his artist's statement in the program, Foreman says, "But though I am anti-Bush and anti-war — I don't find it artistically satisfactory to simply 'preach to the converted' and create a theatrical diatribe that expresses my political views." In all honesty, it might have been a stronger choice to leave any statement of what this play is or isn't out of the artist's statement, and let the ideas expressed live freely to be deciphered as they may. While it is fun for many of the "converted" to laugh at Boy Bush, perhaps if all Bush references had been left out of printed materials, some of the "non-converted" would have attended the show, and said to themselves, "Holy crap, I think I voted for that guy." But then again, they might well have said, "I like this Rufus fellow. That man is a born leader."

    Aside from any program/promotional criticism, this play was an absolute delectable delight. Never did the action falter, never did the set or sound design fail to entice, and never did the performances of the talented cast and capable stage crew waiver. T Ryder Smith's portrayal of The Baron Herman De Voto, was hilariously simple and extraordinarily level-headed in its focus. He was like The Fonz on 50 doses of Valium. This understated performance paved a clear path for Jay Smith's beautifully contradictory way-far-over-the-top King Cowboy Rufus. One of the biggest laughs of the evening came when The Baron hollowly says, "Use your imagination." and Rufus painfully proclaims, "I don't have one." Juliana Francis as Susie Sitwell turned in a performance filled with a nice range of emotions and quite the lovely singing voice. Her deliberate speech and pace set up many a joke such as, "My name... is Susie... Sitwell." to which Rufus replies, waving his hanky, "Oh, and you do. You do."

    In case you don't know already, Richard Foreman is legendary. He has won many awards, written and directed a ton of plays, and has understandably had books written about him. This play is deliriously fun and manages to remain poignant without smacking you over the head with anything but wacky madness and brutal impetuosity. While this is the first Foreman play that this reviewer has seen, it most certainly won't be the last. You should go see this one. If you can't see this one, see the next one titled "The Gods: When Does the Movie Start?" slated for Late Summer/Fall/Winter 2004. If you live this life without seeing a play by this national treasure, you, poor soul, have cheated yourself.

    FEBRUARY 3, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe:

  • about the play   from olena, Mar 20, 2004

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