Kicking A

With the world premiere of Fucking A, Infernal Bridegroom Productions may have outgrown its seedy past, but it hasn't forgotten it

Hawthorne's Hester has a whole new set of troubles. Her "A" no longer stands for adultery. Her son has spent the last 30 years in prison, and she has become an abortionist so that she can make the money needed to buy his freedom. Despite the futuristic setting, Hester's methods are ancient, gory and Gothic. She has been branded on the chest with a festering, constantly oozing "A," and she totes her bloody tools about in a big metal bucket.

As disturbing as all this might sound, there's still a lot of macabre humor in the show. In one tune, the bounty hunters searching for Hester's son sing, "We hunt, but we do not eat what we catch / That'd be a little much, don't you think?" The effect is eerie and incredibly funny.

This gruesomely dark humor fits right into IBP's aesthetic. After all, this is a company run by a man who claims, "Wit is a little too uplifting for me." That IBP would collaborate with Parks, and vice versa, says much about the company's unwillingness to compromise as it reaches for higher goals.

Fearless foursome: Suzan-Lori Parks, Tamarie Cooper, Tony Barilla and Jason Nodler.
Fearless foursome: Suzan-Lori Parks, Tamarie Cooper, Tony Barilla and Jason Nodler.
In Fucking A, Tamarie Cooper (left) plays a postmodern Hester Prynne, whose "A" now stands for "abortionist."
George Hixson
In Fucking A, Tamarie Cooper (left) plays a postmodern Hester Prynne, whose "A" now stands for "abortionist."

It would seem that no matter how legitimate he gets, Nodler will always remain a ragamuffin hellcat, dressed in a baggy T-shirt and beat-up Doc Martens, smoking Kools and in desperate need of a shave. Yet is it possible that all this exposure will affect the group's artistic sensibility, one that seems so deeply connected to IBP's punk-rock beginnings? Nodler doubts it. In fact, board member Boucher imagines the group developing much like Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, the cutting-edge company that is, in part, responsible for developing such heavyweights as playwright David Mamet and actor John Malkovich.

Besides, Nodler says, full of his own irreverent brand of pride, wherever IBP ends up, "there will always be a little bit of the gutter" in it.

Fucking Aopens Thursday, February 24, and runs Thursdays and Saturdays through March 18 (no performance March 11), at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, (713)335-3445. $10-$15.

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