From the Schlump With the Shiv, Two Plays Turned Podcasts

Shawn now performs Ben, a health care provider who has invented a genetically modified nutrient referred to as Grain No. 1. When fed to animals, Grain No. 1 causes them to eat voraciously and reproduce always, thus ending the world’s meals scarcity. But as the results of this alteration transfer up the meals chain, Grain No. 1 not solely unlocks a “molecular inhibition” with devastating digestive penalties, it unlocks a pandemic of sexual inhibition as nicely.

Though “Grasses” at first looks as if a cautionary story about meals science and ecological finish occasions, most of its appreciable size — like “The Designated Mourner,” it’s damaged into six segments of about 30 minutes every — is dedicated to that sexual unloosening. Ben’s beloved penis now turns into an nearly autonomous creature, and its adventures a sort of Rabelaisian picaresque. These adventures contain a harem together with not solely his spouse, Cerise (Julie Hagerty), his lover Robin (Jennifer Tilly) and one other lover, Rose (Emily Cass McDonnell), but additionally a fantastical, queenly cat named Blanche.

Yes, Shawn goes there. And goes there.

When I noticed the New York premiere of “Grasses” at the Public Theater in 2013, I discovered its prurience and misogyny taxing, though each have been deployed satirically. With nearly no motion — additionally like “The Designated Mourner,” the play proceeds as a lecture or memory, with occasional illustrative scenelets — it relies upon solely on supply, which onstage turned monotonous. However excessive minded, the pornographic passages, like pornography usually, rapidly paled, and the bigger story, opposite to the play’s theme, appeared underfed.

Either the podcast is an enormous enchancment or the world has sunk a lot nearer to the degree of Shawn’s dystopic fantasy that I’m now pressured to take it extra severely. In any case, “Grasses,” in addition to “The Designated Mourner,” are superbly rethought for the ear by the director (and longtime Shawn collaborator) André Gregory. The music and sound by Bruce Odland serve each to determine the surreally foreboding temper and to maintain you moored in the in any other case drifting timescape of the narratives. Even the performs’ size is turned to good impact in a format that permits you to serialize the expertise.

It helps that the actors — all of whom carried out their roles in earlier New York productions — have voices of unusual timbre and distinctiveness. Paradoxically, you recognize higher who’s who with out seeing them than you ever did onstage. Ben’s girls are particularly terrifying, whether or not flirting or purring or, finally, whooping like maenads. They are ids run wild in a society dropping its thoughts.

Awful as that’s, the males performed by Shawn are finally extra harmful. Their adenoidal squeak and chuckly supply disguise each the stripping away of human tradition and the ineffectuality of that tradition which are his chief themes.

His supply is essential. When Mike Nichols performed Jack in David Hare’s 1997 movie of “The Designated Mourner,” his suave cosmopolitanism made him harmful from the begin. But Shawn’s infernally ingratiating type means that true hazard comes from not seeing it till it’s too late. His world doesn’t finish with a bang or perhaps a whimper however with an anecdote, cheerfully delivered. He could also be an apologist for the worst of humanity’s outrages, however he’s additionally mounting your leg: a beagle of the apocalypse.

The Designated Mourner and Grasses of a Thousand Colors
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