Description of Pentacle Theatre's Production of


by Ragni, Rado, MacDermot

as Directed by Randy Bowser


In the pitch black, a brave and quasi-Medieval trumpet fanfare ornately rings out.

The "SHEILA FRANKLIN" chant comes here, as the stage lights come up to the brightest they've yet been in the show, and a dual mirror image Art Nouveau woman is on the screen. Three girls dive for a colorfully festooned microphone stand at stage left to sing "doo wap" backup as The Tribe excitedly shifts, one group sitting and reclining in a clump with backs three quarters out to the house and the rest in an animated clump opposite them at up right.

Sheila Franklin has again been carried on as if flying, and with her hands free (thanks to a wireless mike) she's soon happily greeting her friends. During "I BELIEVE IN LOVE" she soon zeroes in on the one unhappy looking boy in the down left clump and manages to get him to smile with her infectious energy.

Without pause, Sheila stations herself with back out down right and announces to the stirred up group that a big peace rally is being organized. After a momentary hesitation--The Tribe is chanting along with Sheila, and it's as if we're seeing the first peace march being born.

With drums growing in intensity, The Tribe forms a powerful looking human wedge with Sheila as Joan of Arc leading the parade.

A black and white shot from a mid-60's freedom march is on the screen as three fully robed and ominous looking KKK members burst through the crowd, holding high a cross with red cardboard flames theatrically leaping from the cross beam. After their angry contribution to the chant, Hud steps forward, grabs the perverted cross and slams it onto the butt of the KKK leader. The cone headed idiots take to the hills as Hud sadly shakes his head, contemplating the symbol of hate he's liberated from the terrorists.

Behind hud, The Tribe has been marching in a large circle and protest signs are appearing in their hands as they pass by the Stage Hand Tribe members up stage. An American soldier with belts of bullets and a golden peace symbol around his neck is up on the screen.

We see flashes of the protest signs as the circle of marchers continues--the famous "War is not healthy..." sign is yellow, "Life is very short" features a drawing of John Lennon, "LBJ Pull out-your father should have" features an LBJ caricature. Up on the screen, we now see a U.S. soldier, trudging with his back to us and a guitar hanging from his back.

Soon, all the kids have signs and they stand in assymetrical diagonal lines as the screen begins to pile up over-lapping images of authentic protest posters from the era: "Drop Acid Not Bombs"--the soldiers at Iwo Jima hoist up a peace flag--and many more, as "AIN'T GOT NO" begins.

The marchers take to the aisles on "burned it burned burned it." A famous Detroit protest poster is on the screen as The Tribe "fire" their M-1 and M-2 rifles over the heads of the audience.

Suddenly the mood of righteous indignation is switching to one of pure, bubbling, youthful energy as the screen completely explodes in a moving, swirling collage of pop-culture images. Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol share brief time with looming Hollywood martians, Jiffy Pop popcorn, comic books, The Beatles, coffee cans, the Maharishi, astronauts, Jesus--as The Tribe bounces back on stage, their signs are collected, and after some quirky knee and elbow jerking dance steps, they're gasping for air and collapsing in a heap up stage.

An absurdly close up-angled shot of someone's nose fills the screen as a green spot hits the garbage can at far stage left, and the rest of the stage is plunged into moody back lighting. At the far right mike, on a stand which is also wrapped in psychedelic cloth, Dionne and Crissy are singing "ba ba ba ba ba" as Jeanie's gas mask covered head comes unexpectedly and impossibly out of the garbage can.

"AIR" is sung by Jeanie in her green spot from her garbage can home, incorporating the new lyrics about radiation and microwaves.

Dionne and Crissy cross the stage to help Jeanie out as the brief scene of the girls' introduction begins. As they talk, they're clapping with that wrist-twirling flip '60's cheerleaders were so fond of. Crissy hop-scotches back onto the peace symbol platform, and Jeanie ends up lying on her back as she dreamily talks about Claude, her arms writhing into the air like love sick snakes, and the other two girls crouch next to her looking indulgently down at their romantic, troubled friend.

Sitars are suddenly vibrating the air. What appears to be a faded and scratched old fashioned silent movie slide moves into view on the screen, saying "In which The Tribe discovers a Holy Book from India." Berger walks through the scattered light thrown from heavily "goboed" instruments as he holds up an open book. The Tribe is crowding all around him to see, as an oriental rug appears on the screen, and erotic illustrations from the "KAMA SUTRA" pop into view. We can discern that the sitars and tablas are playing an East Indian improvisation based on "Aquarius."

Couples begin to break off from the group, and eventually the entire stage is filled with bodies attempting to get into the sexual contortions they saw in the book. Berger walks through the group, offering encouragement and instruction as they all start to laugh at their attempts. One by one they start falling to the floor, until everyone has dissolved into hopeless laughter, all hopes of a well executed Indian Orgy at least temporarily dashed.

Jeanie, in a pink bath robe, shower cap, and pink rollers, appears at right with an ancient Kirby upright vacuum cleaner. She glowers at The Tribe and growls "Look at all this dirt!"---She raises the dirty sucking beast, and The Tribe react as if they're literally being sucked up stage as they move up--others cling to the edge of the stage and end up spread out down stage, lying on their stomachs as if watching television.

Berger, Woof, and Apache have donned straw hats with sequined head bands and are at the left mike, nasally singing "HELLO THERE" as they goofily do a take off on '30's soft shoe numbers. At the brief song's end, they dive to the top of the stage left ramp and become the "see no evil" trio of monkeys.

A traditional "Home Sweet Home" stitched sampler hangs on the screen as the Moms all appear. Each is in a sightly different shade of terry cloth pink robe, and all wear the plastic shower caps and pink curlers. As written, two are female, one is male.

When the Dads appear, they keep the scene in perfect classic symmetry, forming a diagnoal triple image at stage left. They are all in conservative business jackets over their otherwise undisguised hippie street wear. The traditional HAiR props of beer-can necklace, giant rubber cigar, and rolled up paper are all used, and the Dads are played by two males and one female.

Claude has been sitting dead center with his rubber gorilla mask and stack of newspapers. When he joins the scene, he focuses out, right, then left, as if his parents are standing in front of him and looking down at him, even though on stage, he is actually down stage of them and they form the angled "wall of parents" above him.

When Claude excitedly notices a headline in an old newspaper in his stack, he rips it out, an ominous guitar chord rings out and on the screen we see the headline "3500 Marines Land In Da Nang." Then the screen zooms in until only the number 3500 fills the screen.

After the brief "MANCHESTER II", the Moms present the letter from the president in triplicate--each holding out a blood red envelope.

Claude's attempted exit is a flat footed balletic moment, ending with his Moms all clinging to him and whining, and the the three Dads are all reeling and drunk at left. On the screen, a straight down shot of a pureed and bland looking TV dinner has been the most recent backdrop to the domestic scene.

"I GOT LIFE" has a delayed beginning. Claude profers his hand and guides a bewildered Mom I (Jeanie) to center as Berger, Hud and others of The Tribe move in and lift her up in the air. Lights plunge to black as a red spot falls on the airborne Jeanie, red bathes the screen, and a loud minor power chord is charanged out by the guitar.

Jeanie is instantly sent into the screaming agony of child birth. Claude's head is seen starting to emerge from between her legs. Down stage "nurses" gently help him out as another girl kneels with a microphone for him to sing into---"I got life, mother"---and the guitar chords are ringing out after each phrase, and Claude is slowly, painfully twisting and turning out from his mother. The last phrases of the song's intro have the entire group throbbing forward and back as the birth nears its completion.

Finally Claude is up and standing on unsteady legs as he grins out at us.

Tom toms roll in, lights bump up---Jeanie is instanty on the ground and back to her Tribe self as Claude tosses her his sun-faced Tambourine and he launches into a new arrangement of "I GOT LIFE" which has a hard rock edge to it, with several ad-lib breaks for Claude as he energizes The Tribe with his Jagger-like swoops and dives. He then leaps off the edge of the platform and joyfully works the front rows as more and more of The Tribe rise to dance with abandon.

"The Da Vinci Man" has appeared on the screen half way through the song, standing elegantly against a yellow background. When the spontaneous dance and group singing builds to the call-and-respose ending, "life-life-life," the famous Da Vinci Man starts dancing wildly--and of course he does it in a funny Monty Pythonish animated way.

For the song's coda, the stage lights shift way down, Claude kneels in a spot as The Tribe gathers around him as if he's a warm fire. "AAAAAAAMEN----and Claude is running off stage as his friends smoothly move up stage to form a few stacks of diagonal lines on either side of the stage, turned towards the sides of the house.

Colors start playing in gentle waves over them as a color wheel above starts turning, and a large blue five foot tall head of President Lyndon Johnson emerges from under the bridge. As the head is raised by the two Stage Hand Tribe members controlling him, the opening minuet of "INITIALS" begins.

The head looks around him in amazement as The Tribe sings with tight staccato phrasing, then during the legato phrase, two couples sweep in front of the president to perform a brief and graceful hippie ballet. At the end, everyone swirls around the head and swoop upstage, leaving Johnson to spin until he falls.

Nightshade, one of the puppeteers, reaches inside the head before its carried off like a beached whale---and pulls out two black sticks with a white string running between them. On the string are Origami Doves which Nightshade flutters in the air as twittering low flutes give the scene a mellow aural backdrop.

As Nightshade is making an exit with the birds, we see Berger on the bridge above. He belts out the opening lines of "MANHATTAN BERGER" before diving off backwards into the arms of his friends below. As they are laughing and shaking their heads over their leader's crazy impulsiveness, the already patchy dim lights go out, leaving only blue backlights which place midnight halos on everyone's heads.

"Several Months Go By" slides into view on the screen. Again it looks like a "magic lantern slide" used in the silent film era. Two guitar players from the band have strolled on stage with acoustic guitars and are strumming an instrumental version of "Aquarius" as black and white images are coming and going, over-lapping, cross-dissolving on the screen. Images of people alone, some naked sitting in window sills, some alone on park benches---there's a brief feeling of longing and alienation that develops from the images. At the end of the brief segment, a pretty girl with flowers in her flowing hair is looking out conemplatively from the screen.

General illumination on stage is returned as we see a picture of a TV studio with miliary men talking to a camera labelled "WHIZ". Behind them on the TV set is the word "Truth."

Hud and Woof walk on laughing over a "Naturist" magazine as Berger comes tripping down an aisle.

After we find out that Claude hasn't returned from the draft board, and The Tribe breaks into an improvisation about giving certain pills to figures such as The Pope, James Brown, and Fred Flinstone--Berger bursts into "GOIN' DOWN" when he mocks his plight of finally being kicked out of High School. He comes flying at us with a sensuous flapping of invisible bat wings as a red tinted Dore etching of Lucifer in Hell fills the screen.

On the second chorus, two female dancers who have been intertwining with Berger are giving an explicit hint of the kind of "going down" they're interested in, just as the triplicated voice of the Hitlerian Principals interupts the song.

As the Principals speak, the image of Charlie Chaplin as "The Great Dictator" frowns down from the screen, and they climb up the ladder to stand in front of a second Chaplin-Dictator image, dressed in black gowns, mortar boards and little gag-store moustaches. Once in place, with down light emphasizing the harshness of their expressions, their heads sink lifeless on their chests until popping up to say their portion of the shared lines which are all barked like the crazed Nazi madman.

Berger has been swinging on the set like a monkey, and has been yelling down to his followers to "burn the schools to the grounds" when the trio of ominous Principals scream out with a Nazi salute that they have expelled the "rebellious beatnik leader."

After a green spotted "cosmic fart" Berger launches into the third section of the song which leads up to a limbo contest, using Hud's African pole, in yet another punning take off on the "goin down" lyrics.

Sheila has been watching Berger cavort with the two female dancers with growing jealousy throughout the song. When the song ends, with Berger leading The Tribe in a "West Side Story"-like conclusion and everyone has ended up in over-lapping piles on the ground--Sheila walks over to glare down at her wild boyfriend. He reaches his hand up to have Sheila join him and his two clinging female friends, but Sheila slaps his hand away in anger before storming off.

Eerie lavendar light bathes the bodies as Claude leaps on carrying a large bouqet of white daisies. He loudly announces that he's the son of God, and the reclining Tribe giggles at him. Somewhat deflated, he continues his New Testament fantasy with less assurance, then playfully runs around the group blessing them---blessing the girl twice whose ass he pats. Finally, with a thick Southern drawl he announces that he believes in "Jay-zuz" before running up into the scaffolding, swooping his daisies into a garbage can. He looks abstracted and removed from his friends.

Lights flash up and down in time to a brief "Ventura's" style 8 bars of twist music, and then The Tribe is rushing up to Claude. He is slowly walking across the bridge, gazing down at the uplifted and loving faces of his friends.

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