PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS

Conceived, created and performed by Simon Morley and David Friend * John Houseman Theater, New York City (open-ended run).


Marcel Duchamp was truly a genius. In fact, the French-born trickster-philosopher of 20th Century art was so smart that he probably knew, when he signed a urinal in 1917 and declared "Anything can be art," that one day two thirty-something Australians would tour the globe doing party tricks with their flaccid penises for paying audiences. Puppetry of the Penis evolved from adolescent games that Simon Morley and his younger brother invented out of dangly dicks and stretchy scrotums into a standup routine performed by Morley and David Friend at a Melbourne comedy festival and then parlayed into an international sensation.

As is generally the case with conceptual art, the charm and wit of Puppetry is contained mostly in the marketing and the anticipation. The ads bill it as demonstrating "the ancient Australian art of genital origami" and announce that it picks up where The Full Monty leaves off -- clever lines. The show itself is, well, a bit of an anti-climax. Two clean-cut guys with refreshingly little modesty spend the better part of an hour on stage performing tricks with their penises primarily aimed at the video camera that blows up the images so people in the back row can have a good look. "Stupid pet tricks" on The David Letterman Show can be funny, but itís over in a few minutes. Imagine if it went on for 45, and you get the idea of Puppetry of the Penis

For gay guys, the show is especially weird because the performers pretend that we donít exist, that no one in the audience really likes looking at penises, let alone that we might have spent our lives ogling them whenever possible. Naked Boys Singing was at least created by gay guys for gay guys, even though the audience now consists largely of bachelorette parties. Puppetry of the Penis is strictly for the bachelorettes.