The Aristocrats

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Editorial Review

A Cherry Red farewell

Cherry Red Productions, the Punk-inspired theater troupe that became known for spraying audiences with fake “bodily fluids,” will trickle out of existence Saturday in appropriate style.

In two performances at 8:30 and 11 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, Cherry Red will act out the famously vile shaggy-dog joke known as “The Aristocrats.” The film, populated by famous comedians, came out in 2005, not rated but definitely in the NC-17 range.

Cherry Red Artistic Director Ian Allen has co-adapted and will co-direct “The Aristocrats” with actress Kate Debelack. They expect to use about 41 Cherry Red alums plus 15 crew members backstage wrangling those “fluids” and other indescribably graphic props. Actors often seen on other Washington area stages will perform, including Carlos and Melissa-Leigh Bustamante, Chris Henley, B. Stanley, Catherine Aselford, Toni Rae Brotons and Frank Britton.

Founded in 1995, Cherry Red has mounted classic productions such as “Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack,” “Kenneth, What Is the Frequency?” and titles not publishable in a family news outlet. They also made little films and organized annual events such as Freak House for Halloween. After Allen moved to New York nearly eight years ago, Cherry Red’s D.C. activities dropped to one or two events per year.

Now, Allen says, it just “seemed like a good time to call it quits. . . . I mean, everybody that was involved in Cherry Red has basically, like, a day job, and so the question was how long does Cherry Red really need to exist?” Allen still lives in New York and still writes plays but now works as marketing director for the off-Broadway MCC Theatre.

Cherry Red’s shows always had “a pretty distinct flavor,” he says. They were “kind of serious in a way” but performed in a style that ranged “from silly to very angry and aggressive.” Allen says he’s proud of “the community aspect of it — that we had so many people involved over so many years and that they really came from every corner of the D.C. theater scene.”

The show is for those 18 and older, Allen says.

-- Jane Horwitz (Wednesday, Aug. 24)