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Filth. Expletives. Puppets singing songs about cannibalism, bestiality and pedophilia. Cross-dressing shrinks and insane clowns. If this sort of thing elicits a titillated giggle, or a tingle in your naughty bits (I’m not judging), you need to get your ass down to West End Art Depot to catch what’s left of Co-ed Prison Sluts, before it’s too late. At five bucks a person, it’s the best deal you’re going to find this side of a Juarez donkey show. And it’s probably funnier, too.

Considered the longest running musical in Chicago, where it got its start thanks to a group of improvisational insurgents calling themselves the Annoyance Theatre company, this musical comedy about a dysfunctional group of prisoners trapped in a Cuckoo’s Nest of a prison has been called “the most offensive play ever written,” and “unconventionally shameless trash.” It’s also been called “brilliant,” “shocking” and “refreshingly original.”

Taking its cue from the Broadway smash “Avenue Q” and Peter Jackons’s “Meet The Feebles,” not to mention the little-seen (but treasured by those lucky enough to own a copy and no, you can’t borrow it) 1976 puppet porn curiosity “Let My Puppets Come,” Co-ed Prison Sluts further besmirches our sweet childhood memories of Sesame Street and the Muppet Show with a virtual onslaught of perversive material that never lets up until the final note has been screeched. By the clown.

It would be very easy to get all ho-hum over humor that has become a staple in our jaded, unflappable, post-South Park world, but let’s get serious; the fact that the Quonset hut housing We.AD was packed on opening night with a very responsive and highly amused audience (the beer being hawked in the back by High Desert Brewing Company may have helped), speaks volumes for sleepy little Las Cruces, New Mexico. Could it be that the old girl is finally shedding her puritanical trappings? One can only hope.

sluts

With expert delivery and pitch perfect comic timing, the cast of this risky homespun production will amaze and confound. Honestly, I had always believed it took years to master the art of puppetry, but less than ten minutes into the show, you will forget there are puppeteers involved at all, despite the fact they are in clear view throughout. Color me delightfully surprised. And kudos to the actors who give very convincing life to their foul-mouthed, cloth-and-wire alter egos.

In fact, some of the best and brightest from NMSU and the community theater scene stoop to conquer in this unlikely production, including Nicole Bartlett, who raised temperatures (and that’s not all) in last season’s “Venus In Furs,” Aaron Hernandez, who showed matinee idol chops in “Aunt Raini” and Britney Stout, who’s sharper than a serpent’s tooth delivery in “School For Lies” had ‘em rolling in the aisles. All are well served here, showing depths of talent that were, up until this point, hidden away in that dark place where we all tend to keep our love for porn and horrible jokes about dead celebrities and the Pope. Is that a good thing? You tell me, but I am not ashamed to say, I laughed my ass off.

Unexpected gratification comes in the form of Travis Relyea, one of only two “live” actors in the show and the one with the most material with which to work. His drag queen Dr. Bello is a hot mess, with streaked on make-up, a brassy blonde wig, glittery boas and a pair of “fabulous, bar whore come-fuck-me-pumps.” He’s also got the moxie to pull it all off without falling into the pit of tragic drag. I can’t remember where I’ve seen Mr. Relyea before, but you can bet I’ll never forget him after this performance.

A big gob of gooey kudos has to be showered on Teddy Aspen-Sanchez, who not only assembled a first-rate cast and put his own mastery of the comedic arts to fine use as director, he actually had the balls to bring Co-ed Prison Sluts to town. I’m expecting more great things from you, Teddy, and I know I’m not the only one. A word of advice: Don’t disappoint an audience hungry for the subversive and sublime.

For those willing to take a chance on absurdist theater of this kind, I can pretty much warrant it will be the first, and probably last time, you’ll see a woman tap dance while wearing a black hood to obscure her features. Bizarre doesn’t even begin to describe it, but considering it happens within the first five minutes, it very aptly sets up an edgy slow build for the rest of the show. Well, that and lines like “my syphilis got so bad, I came maggots,” and enough continuous profanity-laced dialog to make George Carlin do a giddy jig in his grave.

For those who don’t like it, the show’s creators have provided a final word on the subject, both literally and figuratively: suck my dick.

West End Art Depot is located at 401 N. Mesilla St., just north of the Railroad Museum. Co-ed Prison Sluts continues Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19 at 10pm. Doors open at 9pm. Tickets are $5 general admission, sold at the door. Bring enough cash to enjoy the rare pleasure of indulging in a beer while watching the show. For more information, call 575-312-9892 or visit http://www.we-ad.org.

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