It is not often that Darth Vader, Jesus Christ and black-lit orgies share the same Friday was opening night for Cal State University Long Beach alumnus Jeremy Alumna’s play, “Ubu the Sh*t.” It was a highly energized hyperbolization of pop culture that loosely followed the plotline of “Macbeth.” The play’s references range from featured appearances from “Jesuslas,” “Maryslas” and “Josephslas,” and include the death and resurrection of Jesuslas, to a light saber duel between Darth Vader and one of the main characters, Pa Ubu.
The original play “Ubu the Sh*t” was adapted from, “Ubu Roi,” produced in 1896, which aimed to shock and horrify audience. After all, the first word of dialogue uttered was “sh-t.” “Ubu,” though, faces the struggle of shocking attendees of today, when nothing is too obscene or off limits for entertainment value. Hearing “sh-t” is no longer necessarily shocking to an audience. True to the original play, “Ubu” started with a musical chorus of “sh-t,” followed by a number of other profanities, worsening in shock value each time. After the opening song set the tone, the play maintained its theme of vulgarity.
The main characters, Ma and Pa Ubu, were highly sexualized, lewd and crude. Pa’s large green stuffed penis was hanging out of his pants the entire show and was the butt of many jokes. Although funny at first, penis jokes can and did grow old. What this play brought with its vulgarity, though, was a setting appropriate to laugh at all that is inappropriate in everyday life, such as social and racial stereotypes, religion and selfie culture. Aluma’s attempt to break the fourth wall to create audience involvement was somewhat disappointing. The script and idea were there, but the acting fell flat in this respect. Scripted breaks in character felt just that, scripted. It was not improvised enough to feel believable. It was hard to appreciate that transition when it felt so unnatural, but the attempt was appreciated.
For the most part though, the acting was impressive. Actors had to be comfortable with not only awkwardly sexual interactions with each other, but also had to improvise with audience suggestions and interactions. The highlight of audience interaction was when someone from the audience recommended a certain character be killed with a pool noodle. This obviously threw Pa Ubu for a loop, and he was blatant about it, creating natural comic relief. The fact that there were nine Ma and Pa Ubu’s was confusing. It wasn’t difficult to keep up with the characters, but there did not seem to be any good reason to have actors switching between the characters. Other than questionable choice of choosing to use the multiple Ma’s and Pa’s throughout the play, casting was done very well.
Actor Tyler Bremer was hands down excellent. He slipped into the character of Bougrelas seamlessly. His comedic timing and characterization of prissy throne heir was on point. Cast as one of the Ma and Pa Ubu’s, he did a good job as well, but it was hard not to visualize him as the sniveling “open-hand-slapping” mama’s boy. Perhaps the most disappointing script decision was the limited acrobatics in the play. Towards the end there was an incredible ninja-esque fight scene in which two characters pulled amazing flips and tricks out from their arsenal. With the chaotic jumble of jokes, plot, dance scenes and sex acts, surely there was more room for more sweet acrobatics.
This play is a must see though, especially if you’re in the mood for performing arts that breaks the stuffy dramatic mold. “Ubu the Sh*t” creates a casual atmosphere of laughs for a laid back audience.
- Amy Patton