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Holidays with Slump

Slump moves from "off-off-Broadway" to just "off"

For the youthful subset of Houston's art community, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without an en-"gross"-ing evening with Slump. Cathy Power and Keith Reynolds, who make up the scatological, blasphemous, iconoclastic and downright nasty performance duo (see "Growing Up's for Suckers," by Lauren Kern, January 25), have been putting on the part-musical drama, part-concert yuletide lollapaloozas for several years now, albeit only in bars. This year, however, Power and Reynolds will perform the simply titled Christmas Show at DiverseWorks Art Space (December 7 and 8 at 9 p.m.).

You read right. The XXX-rated Slump has jumped one category up the fringe, from Houston's "off-off-Broadway" to just "off." DiverseWorks, a heretofore eminently mature arts organization given to sponsoring earnest if decidedly edgy endeavors like poetry readings, modern dance concerts and painting exhibitions, has granted the duo three weeks' rehearsal time and the space in which to build the set of their most odious dreams.

Visual arts director Diane Barber says that the event is not as much of a departure for DiverseWorks as some might think. "We provide artists with the opportunity to work without boundaries," Barber says. "We are a forum that is fortunately able to present work that you probably won't see anywhere else. Oftentimes work that does get presented here is well received by mainstream and museum supporters and conservative people, but other times we take pride in the fact that we present work that pushes buttons and breaks down the boundaries that artists encounter when they're creating."

Breaking down boundaries is what Slump is all about, especially if "boundaries" can be taken as a synonym for "taboos." And no, this is not a show that will be coming to Jones Hall anytime soon. Racket recently visited a Christmas show run-through to see the Ron Jeremy-meets-Dr. Seuss fantasy for himself.

A Slump rehearsal is a freewheeling and lackadaisical affair. Busch tall boys are abundant, as are several 1.5-liter jugs of wine, from which (among other comestibles/consumables/combustibles) Racket was invited to partake. Of the wine, Reynolds says proudly, "We have two kinds: nasty red, and nastier white."

Thus squared away with a plastic cup of the former, Racket was invited to tour the unfinished set, which can be said to put the "X" in Xmas.

Stage left is the entry to a giant vagina, which wends its way back and around to stage right, where it opens into a sort of Hall of Phalluses. The walls of these chambers are lined with crude pen-and-ink representations of holly jolly hardcore. Though these areas are not yet complete, Reynolds and Power assured Racket that on the performance nights, they will be (and this could be the operative word for the whole show) "spoogey." As always, Slump's Christmas show will be interactive, and the audience will be invited to traverse this Desmond Morris documentary come to life.

Near the back of the performance space proper is a cage for the monkey sex slaves/sweatshop toy makers, while center stage is taken up by Santa and Mrs. Santa's marital bed. Virtually every "member" of the cast of roughly 20 passes through this bed, as the salacious Mr. and Mrs. Santa's conjugal joys and woes are central to the action.

While the still-in-progress set and the fact that this was not a dress rehearsal conspired to rob Racket of the chance to view the "perverted reindeer" costumes and the "colossal paintings of a drunk Frosty the Snowman" promised by the press release, what he did see leaves no doubt that the kiddies (not to mention your parents) will be best left at home. Slump chestnuts like the anti-anal sex anthem "I Ain't Your Three-Holer Baby (I Ain't Your Bowling Ball)" and the audience participation candy cane sucking contest are reprised this year, with new numbers like Reynolds's Santa-meets-David Lee Roth circa "I'm Just a Gigolo" sing-along showstopper making their debut.

Ask Power about landing the DiverseWorks gig, and deadpan she'll tell you about the "serious issues" The Christmas Show raises, which range from rape and domestic violence to "the plight of the great apes" and "abuse of power by corporations and governments." You can practically hear her winking and almost see the beginnings of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. It's the same spiel Slump has posted on its Web site (www.geocities.com/ihateslump/ proposal.html), and while it seems at first like complete bullshit, there is a certain, as they put it, "heartfelt generosity of spirit" at play.

Yes, the show does break every religious, sexual and physiological taboo possible, many times simultaneously. (The scene in which Mrs. Santa's autoerotic shenanigans are repeatedly interrupted by an oblivious Santa's gargantuan flatulence comes to mind.) And yet there is not a mean word spoken or sung in the show. Somehow, in all its perversity and grossness, the show's spirit is less grubby in the grand scheme of things than the one that uses the birth of the Messiah to preach a message of stark materialism. Almost nothing is calculated about Slump's Christmas Show except the mission to shock as much as possible, all of the time. It dares grown-ups not to give in to their most childish predilections, and while we're not looking (through the back door, as it were), it makes us wide-eyed and giggling 12-year-olds again. And some would say that's what Christmas is all about -- minus the spooge.

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