At the outset, "Erotic Lettres From Bourgeoisie," playing this weekend and next Wednesday through Sunday at the Washington Project for the Arts, promises to be an entertaining evening. The audience sits at round tables covered with real tablecloths, the stage is attractively decorated with elegant props, a man in a tuxedo is playing a grand piano very well, and waiters in black tie are serving drinks. "Welcome to Club Met," announces the emcee, and we settle back for what we hope will be a diverting theatrical event.
These hopes are soon dashed. Play-wright and chief performer J. Garret Glover gives us three people on stage: the pianist (Maryland Yost) a petulant young dancer named "Miss Caviarr Misenko" (Muffin Misenko) who moves to the beat of whatever is coming through her earphones from a cassette recorder hanging on her belt, and himself. He takes a microphone and reads a series of letters addressed to "Cherie Bourgeoisie," a lovelorn columnist on the Bourgeoisie Tribune, interspersed with philosophical ruminations such as "what has been perverted is the natural sense of the erotic."
The letters are from the members of a menage a trois: Clifford Horn, his ex-wife May and his mistress Honey, and the subject of their letters, or "lettres," is their various gripes about each other. "As an exorcism the letters might be seen as an archeological dig," Glover says. Cherie Bourgeoisie's responses are predictably banal: "Be more frank and open with each other," or "whenever your lover talks about his ex-wife, talk about your mother . . . and read Psychology Today."
The letters contain dialogues between the characters, mostly sexual. Horn accuses May of having an incestuous relationship with her mother; May says Horn is impotent, Horn abuses Honey, etc. A lot of it is quite, ah, dirty, in a literary way.
If "Erotic Lettres . . ." is parody, it is so diffuse as to be unrecognizable. Glover as a writer is like a small airplane diving and twisting through the sky; as a performer he's a physically compelling but ultimately montonous reader who paces nervously and speaks so fast he is hard to understand.
The counterpoints of Misenko boogie-ing endlessly to her own music, the pianist "tinkling the ivories" with Debussy and the like, and a sound-track of restaurant noises help create tension, but are basically sensory wallpaper. Misenko is cute and vacant, the perfect disco queen bippity-bopping forever, and Yost is a pleasure to listen to.
As Gore Vidal once said: "Everything in this world is in flux, except, of course, experimental theater."