Although he can come across as just out to shock the grown-ups, Farquhar does have points to make with his cheeky satire of the sordid side of theater bleeding into the sordid side of life. And Bad Jazz boasts at least one brilliant stroke: throwing Andrew Lloyd Webber into its cauldron. It is hard to judge by the Zeitgeist production, however, whether the playwright means his grubby, mediocre artistes to be sympathetic or merely ridiculous.
Pretentious guru director Gavin is known for a particularly "visceral" production of Thomas Middleton's The Changeling. Here he's directing naive if devoted Natasha and clueless Danny in some gritty slice of life centered on the romance of a junkie and a whore, one inarticulately hyperbolic speech of which (sounding like a rewrite of "how-much-wood-could-a woodchuck-chuck" by David Mamet) goes, "It was a fuck. That's all it was, because me and you, we're just two fucked-up no-hopers who got fucked up on fuck knows what, and we fucked." In the perky yet formidable person of Kara Manson, Natasha delivers this speech with a wounded gusto that bespeaks her commitment — to art, to Gavin, and to the director's suggestion that, to the consternation of real-life boyfriend Ben, she perform an actual blow job on stage.
Before you know it, Ben is out of the picture and Natasha is hot and heavy with co-star Danny as their stage roles luridly smear into their real lives. And Gavin, when he isn't speaking cryptic art mush or lashing out at the theatrical status quo, is picking up a male hustler (and musical-theater vet) whom he forces to sing "Any Dream Will Do" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during sex.
Some of Bad Jazz is quite funny if aggressively tasteless, and Farquhar sticks a deft harpoon into the pretenses of Artaudian theater. But the hour-and-45-minute one-act work is too long, and director David J. Miller is unable to impose sufficient shape upon it. Long before the end, you just want the play to zip up and go home.
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