nytheatre.com review by David Johnston
Operation Knockout written and directed by Karen Rothschild,
starts off as a comedic retelling of the Judgment of Paris, leading into
the Trojan War. The wife of the Swiss president, Helen Menelaus (Karen
Eke) runs off with a Mineola biology teacher (Christopher Butler.) The
play then abruptly shifts into a political satire involving the United
States and Switzerland. Switzerland threatens to cut off the world’s
supply of chocolate and the situation soon deteriorates into a nuclear
standoff. Given the current political situation in this country, this
Mouse That Roared type of satire feels oddly tame.
August 15, 2003
Helen Menelaus, we are told, is the famous and beautiful wife of the president of Switzerland. Her face appears on magazine covers. But later, the biology teacher is crushed to realize she’s married, even though he’s been reading magazines with her picture on the cover and apparently never realized she is the first lady of Switzerland. Then, he forgets Helen and falls in love with his best friend.
Ken Schatz, a memorable, distinctive Fool in Classical Theatre of Harlem’s King Lear, works too hard to wring laughs out of this material. He has a variety of cameos as (variously) Aphrodite’s hairdresser, the Swiss Agamemnon, a Robin Leach-type TV personality and an aide to a dim-bulb American president (the likeably oafish Brian McMullan.) By the end of the show, any pretensions to Greek mythology have been dropped—Helen is a lesbian, the Swiss have won (I think), and the President’s administration is bemoaning its lack of a suitable supply of "love" bombs. There are puppets, writhing in raw puppet sex. The puppets are fun. There’s a bit with a Swiss army knife. There are a lot of clandestine operations with names like Operation Amour. And Operation Knockout. And the greatest chocolates in the world. I may have gotten lost.
In the interest of fairness, when I attended the show the audience was having a great time, laughing at gags involving French people with berets, nelly hairdressers, and a President who thinks Switzerland is in Africa.