By Leigh E. Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat February 29, 1996
The polls are still warm from Arizona's first Republican Pri-
mary. And while a whopping 25% of conservative voters
exercised their rights this past Tuesday, the Coyote Ramblers Theater Group has been expressing a very different political statement at the a.k.a. Theatre € a black box barely larger than those claustrophobic polling booths € with their production of Mac Wellman's satirical comedy "7 Blowjobs."
Written as a retort to Senator Jesse Helms' attack on the National Endowment for the Arts and on Wellman himself, "7 Blowjobs" aims to expose the hypocrisy and moral vice of politics in America. Set on Capitol Hill, Wellman's political satire revolves around seven photographs of compromising sexual positions which find their way to the office of Senator Bob, reminiscent of a political smear. The senator's underlings peruse the pictures in a state of titillated shock, simultaneously aroused and appalled by what undeniably violates so-called "family values."
During the entire first act of the play, Wellman introduces his audience to the senator's secretary and two assistants and their subsequent reactions to the graphic photos. Vague innuendos to body parts and questions like "Are humans doing that?" dominate Wellman's dialog. One assistant responds, "They're not cows and pigs, Bruce" € but they are obviously elephants and donkeys. While he does create some witty retorts reflecting our era of negative advertising and "You're no Jack Kennedy" debates, much of it falls flat.
Although his characters are intentionally full of hot air, they are steeped in stereotypes, and "7 Blowjobs" lacks real political debate. The humor centers too much on sexual positions rather than political positions, and Wellman loses hold of the interminable supply of humor and hypocrisy real politics provides.
The playwright, however, purposely strayed from this source of satire that comedians from Mark Russell to Dennis Miller have milked over the years. Wellman states in his forward, "It is not interesting at this point in human time to portray the real world as it seems to be in its own terms; but it is interesting to unfold, in human terms, the logic of its illogic and so get at the nut of our contemporary human experience."
But the real world is interesting and illogical, and Wellman only needs more complex characters, more opposing voices and wittier double entendres to coax us to sadly laugh at the state of our leadership system. Unfortunately, he doesn't give this talented cast much to work with.
Despite such constricted characters, their abilities eke through. Eugene Montes reaffirms his dynamic stage presence (gracefully displayed in the Ramblers' last production, "Modigliani") as Senator Bob € a tasteless man garbed in multiple pastels who sucks on a cigar with an orally fixated verve that would satisfy Freud himself, while Charles Prokopp's Hitler-esque televangelist hauntingly paints "a picture [that] can torture and rape your mind."
Wellman stiffs the remaining characters (Aaron Brown's "Bruce," Elizabeth Starrett's "Eileen," and Yolanda Hovey's "Dot") with nebulous and repetitious dialog, but the cast members create their own humor through body language and reactions. Bruce's flushed face and Eileen's Tammy Faye 'do expand Wellman's recycled dialogue.
While he tries to make "you want to look at what you don't want to look at," "7 Blowjobs" would be funnier if it presented the audience with more of the "unmentionable normal" € things we have done or have considered doing € rather than trying to using the outrageous to shock and titillate without doing either. He does, however, sneakily weave both conservative Republican "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" rhetoric alongside the hypocritical "but I didn't inhale" Democrat innocence that pervade our political era.
Regardless of its limitations, "7 Blowjobs" is local theater staged and performed by talented local artists. Supporting such projects guarantees the continuation of artistic experimentation and variety in a time when many politicians wish to silence it. "And there's the rub, and the rub is where the trouble starts."