Stellar Performance

Tuesday March 05, 02
by Dalt Wonk , Gambit Weekly

A recent close contact with extraterrestrials was reported in the vicinity of Cowpokes Theatre Space on Marigny Street. The abduction of an Earth woman has been confirmed by reliable sources. Nevertheless, strange to say, all the standers-by were left wishing the visit had lasted longer. In fact, there are rumors of a cult whose members gather at the spot of the visitation each full moon, in the hope of spotting the space craft once again.
There is another rumor that playwright Charles Kerbs is a defendant in a class-action lawsuit for false advertising -- for, in fact, there was only one Midget From Uranus. The plaintiffs, however, do not want damages, or even their very modestly priced tickets refunded. They want more midgets. The sooner, the better.
One of the fashionable terms that was bandied about a few years ago was New Vaudeville. Kerbs' delightful little skit is a, perhaps unwitting, classic of the genre. It's sort of like an Abbott and Costello turn written by Jean Cocteau: silly, naughty, imaginative and a whole lot of fun.
After some bouncy outer-space rock 'n' roll, heavy on the tom-tom and theramin, the lights come up to reveal an outrageous-looking duo. Stage right is a cigar-smoking cowgirl, in a short dress (with petticoats), a pair of cap pistols, white pigtails and a red Stetson. Stage left is a cute little Rumpelstiltskin of a man with a green face, a long white Pinocchio nose and large white ears. He is wearing a pale gold choir gown and what look like green gardening gloves. The costume and makeup (which are uncredited in the program) are sensational. Visually, we are off to a good start.
In fact, even before we cast our eyes on "Three," the Uranian midget, we have gotten a first impression. For he delivers a prologue in the pre-show blackout. We hear a wheedling, cajoling little voice that informs us, "We have come to study the defense system of your world, and, yes, just as you feared, take over your planet."
And so, we immediately enter the bizarre conundrum of his dual nature: Is he a cute, if horny, little E.T., full of warmth and cheer -- or does his friendly exterior cloak a diabolic invader. Even if the latter surmise is true, Three -- like Audry II, the carnivorous plant from Little Shop of Horrors -- proves to be great company.
I call him Three, since that's what he's called in DRAMA!'s program. But the cowgirl apparently doesn't know his name, and refers to him in phrases such as "you little assholes!"
It's never entirely clear what's going on, partly because we can't decide if Three is evil or dotty. This much we know: Belle, the cowgirl, lives in New Jersey. She is dressed in faux Western splendor because she has just returned from a Square Dance Congress in Las Vegas.
We also know that Three wants to transport her back with him to Uranus. His first explanation: "You can save our planet, Belle, because you are a lesbian." To which, Belle furiously replies, "I'm not a lesbian, I'm a tough girl!"
Well, the cat-and-mouse game is full of hilarious, risque surprises that I am loathe to reveal, since I also have joined the cult of moon-watchers, hoping for Three's return. And when I say Three, I mean, of course, Blake Balu -- for he has created a comic masterpiece with this whimsical, excitable, unfathomable half-pint -- a stellar performance in every sense of the word. Marinda Woodruff, as his incongruous love object, provides just the right mixture of flamboyance, tawdriness and charm.
The problem with the skit (which was directed by playwright Kerbs and Drama! co-founder Charlie Favre Hayes) is that it is just that: a skit. Perhaps it could be elaborated in some way, although, as they say, there's nothing like leaving them wanting more. Another approach would be to create an evening of short pieces in a similar or complementary vein.
When I saw Midgets, it was grouped with Life After Harold, a bittersweet monologue in drag (written and directed by Jason Toups) and a one-woman adaptation of Tennessee Williams' This Property Is Condemned by Robin Vella Riehl. Toups' monologue had a wistful charm, though it seemed more a work-in-progress than a finished piece. This Property lost much of its poignancy when reduced to a recitation. Neither of these monologues seemed like the right companion for Kerbs.
And so, I and the others of our secret fraternity must continue to gather in the light of the moon, hoping that Three returns and that he brings with him a suitable entourage.