The Monkey is Omniscient: “Timbuktu, USA”

Top row (l-r): Karos, McMaster, Kaiss, Astudillo
Bottom row (l-r): Wiseman, Hillyer, Baltay; photo credit to David Marshall

Presented by Sleeping Weazel
Written and directed by Kenneth Prestininzi
Assistant direction from Teresa Cruz
Fight choreography by Drew Frayre

Aug. 25 – Sept. 1, 2018
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Boston, MA
Sleeping Weazel on Facebook
Review by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning: references to bestiality, incestuous kissing

(Boston, MA) Sleeping Wezel’s Timbuktu, USA is an absurd political satire made digestible via the mechanics of a bedroom farce. There is opportunity a plenty to be delightfully offended by the comings and goings of Prestininzi’s chaotic neutral politicians. The buffoonery so closely resembles the US current political boondoggle that audience members may leave confused. Fear not, Timbuktu, USA is a diversion well worth any disorientation.

Kelly Killkenny (Veronica Anastasio Wiseman) is a Secretary of State manipulating family and friends for the betterment of the American people. She aims to be President but first she must her rescue naughty, naughty nephew Bobby (Ramzi Kaiss) from scandal. Secretary Kilkenny convinces Sen. Henry Rosequest (Luis Astudillo) to arrange a marriage between Bobby and Babette Rosequest (Mattie McMaster). Unfortunately, Bubu (Jason Karos) the monkey mucks up the works with his dirty predilection for non-consensual cuddles with humans. Bert (Riley Fox Hillyer) and Ushi (Brittany Baltay) assist by monitoring visitors like the horny Gardener (Michael Hammond) closely.

Timbuktu, USA is not an easy play to follow. On its most superficial levels, it’s a Dadaist play about a certain woman dreaming of a 2016 Presidency. When one delves a little deeper, it’s about our human capacity for animalistic behaviors which are then covered up with lies and manipulation. Prestinizi introduces the Nemesis myth to explain Sec. Kilkenny’s virgin-whore/truth-lie duality. Bubu represents the inappropriate urges we keep locked away. In this case, he’s locked away in a steamy tropical garden/love den just off stage right. Characters like Babbette and the Gardener are the physical manifestations of the healthy working class. They are also the only characters with reliable conviction to perform acts of purity. Those poor suckers.  

Wiseman is a regular in Sleeping Weasel shows. It’s easy to understand why. She’s willing to take big risks, and commits to them. In this play, she sits down at the table, unfolds her napkin, and tucks into an evening of scenery chewing. The role of Kelly Kilkenny demands it; and Wiseman delivers from minute one.

Karos and McMaster make a positive impact with their characters; we’ve all been Bubu or Babette. Bubu may represent Kilkenny’s wild animus but Karos is hilarious in his “monkey mind impressions.” McMaster’s Babette sings sweet songs of Patriarchy smashing to a feminist soul. Babette is written as a caricature of anti-romance innocence, but McMaster plays her with respect.

Kaiss and Astudillo took longer to adjust to the stage/audience. Their deliveries started cool but warmed up when they realized the audience wasn’t rejecting the play.

Samantha Butler’s set design awakens the theater to optimal living conditions. The jade liquor tray matches the tropical love den. The peasoup green of the automans match the color of Kilkenny’s murky soul.  Additionally, the book collection is impressive. Watch and see just how well the books reflect character motivations. 

Timbuktu, USA is a farce wrapped in satire shrouded in absurdity. It’s not going to be for everyone; it may not even be for Sleeping Weazel regulars (or those uncomfortable watching straight, white men get away with bad behavior while women are penalized for it), but it’s easy to see that the work is exemplary. From the makeout choreography to Babette’s leg hair (nice touch!), it’s a solid albeit strange fringe theatre piece.     

Who wants violent hugs?

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