Whatever, Heaven Allows
nytheatre.com review by David Johnston
February 21, 2010
Life was dull and joyless, my theatre-going lackluster. Late-winter New York City blues have left me impatient, fractious, and listless. Where was the new important work to give me something to talk about, something to brag to friends that I'd seen? Who will blow my mind? What's a culture maven to do?
But now I have found Radiohole and avant-garde unicorns are leaping over candy-colored experimental rainbows. Vigorous sloppy hilarious Radiohole, who put the fun, weirdness, wrestling, and beer back into downtown performance art.
Who are these people? What do they want? Why is the stage such a damn mess? And when will they do another show?
Whatever, Heaven Allows starts off with Eric Dyer coming out to give the curtain fire speech. After pointing out egress upstage and through the house, he describes in gruesome detail what will happen to those who cannot reach the exits in time to escape. Then, he describes an insurance commercial he saw on TV, which showed people falling up into the sky. Now, he is Satan in Paradise Lost, describing his nine-day fall from Heaven. Now, all of Radiohole—that's Dyer, Erin Douglass, Mark Jaynes, Maggie Hoffman, and Joseph Silovsky—begin re-enacting Douglas Sirk's 1955 melodrama All That Heaven Allows. They distill whole chunks of dialogue into nuggets like "You're gay!" and "Cocktails!" They show their own homemade opening credits, redoctoring Sirk's film with their own sullen and disrespectful images. I was hooked.
The mad and gorgeous Maggie Hoffman plays the Jane Wyman role, imbuing it with a barely restrained hysteria that feels entirely right. She spends most of the evening with fluid all over her face, occasionally screaming about her expressions conveying what she's feeling.
Dyer, as the hunky Rock Hudson gardener, is a truculent mix of tech guy and the guy who sells you weed—who you slowly realize has read a lot more than you. Erin Douglass is the sexually repressed daughter who keeps yelling "Freud!"
The country club set does the Maori dance from Invictus to indicate their disapproval of Rock Hudson/Eric. Hoffman and Dyer wrestle. She sings Helen Reddy's "I am Woman" and tells us Eric passed out face down from drinking five beers in 15 minutes. "Eric's depressed because he thinks the show sucks." She shrugs.
The ideas are messy. The show is messy. By the end, the stage is really messy.
They have free beer. Did I mention that? Radiohole has a garbage can full of free beer on ice at their show. Free. Beer.
The evening careens between obsessively controlled tech elements, and complete anarchy—messy joyful anarchy, an antidote for every sleepy, portentous mashup of styles you've ever sat through. They go back and fix botched cues while they're doing something else! They dance, they fall, they get up again. Kourtney Rutherford plays a deer. I have no idea what these people are doing. I had a blast.