The theater is on the intimate side: maybe eighteen rows deep, twenty seats or so across, at about 90% capacity when we enter. I feel I should say at the outset that whatís offered isnít a coherent show, per se, and that it makes no pretense toward coherence or linearity, which is a good thing. The last thing I feel like doing is suffering through some hackneyed, puerile dialogue intended to build tension and establish character plausibility and motivation. I mean I actually fear this, initially, that what weíre about to watch will be the equivalent of a live-action porn flick, like a porn play, I guess, replete with the requisite conversational hebetude and clumsy attempts at flirtatious banter. Weíre spared these atrocities, mercifully, and are presented instead with a sort of revolving circuit of three-to-five-minute interludes, which, for our purposes, commence (while weíre finding our way to some acceptable seats) with a couple sixty-nining on what I suppose one could call the "Lazy Susan" (meaning a rotating platter typically used to facilitate food service at family-style restaurants, but in this case used to assure the gawking crowd of equal opportunity face time with both ballbag [his] and butthole [hers]). The sceneís conclusion is time- rather than event-centric (like a basketball game, which expires according to the clock, rather than a baseball game, which ends only after a specific event, e.g., the final out or winning run) and arrives after a foreordained duration, call it five minutes, at which point the curtains close and the next performer(s) presumably prepare(s) for action.
Tracey and I settle in our selected seats in what I would classify as the rear fifth of the theater, and exchange silly, embarrassed smiles. Shortly thereafter, the curtains part, and a thin Spanish woman takes the stage to do something that the announcer calls "The Banana Dance," for which sheíll require three male volunteers. I glance around the room, expecting a general free-for-all to ensue, though the group right now seems a little prudish and uncertain. The male/female ratio, incidentally, is about what youíd expect, and comparable in fact to the last time I ate at the Chicago Chop House, specifically being 6:1 or thereabouts, and every woman I do see is seated next to a guy. By contrast, there are a large number of all-male groups in view, taking up entire rows, throwing back drinks and guffawing with all the brio and panache that one might expect in a live-sex theater. Particularly delighted is the group of Japanese men sitting predatorily in the first row, I mean delighted: there is a boyish glow to their faces, a general look of ravishment and gratitude, and at least one of the sextet has his mouth visibly agape every time I look in their direction.
I should confess, at this point, to my complete and total fear of being in any audience when a volunteer of any sort is solicited, as Iím more or less convinced that, in the wake of nobody raising a hand, the host or hostess will take it upon himself or herself to just pick someone at random, that that hapless random someone will of course be me, and that despite my very serious and somber and adamant protestations, the crowd will begin to applaud and really get behind the host on this one (probably to protect themselves from being dragged unwittingly to the stage) and that Iíll lack the balls to just put my foot down and refuse and will thus effectively be shamed into it. Onstage, regardless of the venue, Iíll be humiliated and ill-at-ease and say or do something graceless or clumsy. Or Iíll be made to dance with someone who is a really exceptional dancer and then Iíll have to slink off to patronizing applause and crawl back into my seat while my nearest neighbors steal bemused, curious glances of my flushed and feverish face. This, though, is probably totally unrealistic at the Casa Rosso, where I think any volunteer has got to be very certain that he/she wants to go up there and get involved in whatever potential concupiscence is about to occur.
Surprisingly, this time around the banana girl finds no takers, and a man (presumably itís a man) in a gorilla suit comes out on stage and begins to masturbate a plastic penis held at groin level, varying grips (over and under) and pace (fast and really fast), until, simulating conclusion, he squeezes the facsimile near the base and jettisons water (or some clear liquid that I assume is water) out across some of the hapless Japanese gents in the front row. Everyone laughs in approval, none harder than those freshly sodden. The curtain closes. The next act readies.
If there is ultimately nothing particularly sexy about the show, nor is there anything salacious. There is a matter-of-fact quality to the performances, a sense of obligation that brings to mind a group of art students sketching a nude model; I canít imagine anyone finding the events particularly erotic or arousing. Thereís nothing grotesque or confrontational going on ó no coprophilia or fisting, no midget abuse or asphyxiation ó and the physicality is more mechanical than inspired.
We watch three couples have intercourse, the first of which appears, at the next raise of the curtain, in monastic robes, their heads invisible. The music is the familiar, soporific chanting that one associates with monks. The players move toward one another, uncover their own heads at roughly the same time, and begin clumsily making out. Then the drab brown robes are shed, and the girl drops to her knees to perform some laborious and determined fellatio, leading into reciprocated cunnilingus, and then, finally, coitus. The Lazy Susan has resumed its slow turn, and this goes on, with consistent, metronomic intensity, for perhaps four minutes. The curtain falls. During all of this people are coming in and leaving, so there is an almost constant shuffling going on, and the rows are close together, necessitating a collective standing whenever someone wishes to enter or leave, which is slightly annoying. It would be better if they had one of those ushers (like at a Broadway show) who wonít seat you until thereís a scene break. A uniformed woman standing pleasantly outside and holding people back with a smile and a "Sorry, guys, but you have to wait a moment. Sheís just about to put his dick in her mouth."
We see, during our forty-five-minute stay, nothing particularly acrobatic or perverse. Solo performances include a limber woman with a penchant for inserting various oblong objects into her love canal, including a lit candle, which she displays in an elegant, splay-legged handstand, then removes, theatrically dripping the wax across her pert breasts, then pressing into her neatly shaved vagina a string of bright blue beads, a sort of miniaturized string of those shiny glass balls you hang on your Christmas tree, though I doubt, actually, that these are glass. And she does a little shimmy and shake with these things inserted and then, following their slow and systematic removal, one nugget at a time, pops them into her mouth, eliciting moans of what I presume to be mock-discomfort from some in the crowd, genuine shock from others, and approval from those enlightened few.
The full coitus of the other two couples is similar to that of the first: processional and passionless. You can almost sense them marking time until the curtain falls and they can abruptly disengage. The men, for the most part, are on the pasty side, a little flabby, and seem on the whole less than totally enthralled with their respective partners, by which I mean there is a sort of consistent noodlish quality to their gear. Not to a dysfunctional or desperate degree, but rather that they seem less than rigidly committed to the task at hand. This is interesting as, from what I understand, the couples who perform at the Casa Rosso are actually real-life couples and not just hired help, which can be read as either a statement on the nerves implicit in humping on a Lazy Susan or on the relative passion that exists between the three couples we happened to watch on this particular evening.
People in the theater seem to be having a reasonably good time, though the vibe is one of distraction, probably from the constant coming and going of the crowd. It precludes a kind of intimacy and any kind of tension, as the continuity is more or less unpreservable within the current seating policy, designed obviously (and who can blame the proprietors) to maximize the number of people passing through the doors in a given evening.
The banana dancer reappears for another try at soliciting volunteers, and this time has more luck. Three youngish men, each the champion or stooge of a particular group of rowdies, take places on the stage and do the squinting thing typical of people unaccustomed to being beneath stage lighting, trying to find solace in the faces and voices of their snickering friends. Music is thrown on, a kind of hyperactive calypso, and the three are instructed to take turns doing sexy dances for the banana girl, which, to my mortification, they do. Itís probably impossible for me to convey how totally embarrassing this is: Though I donít know these guys and will likely never see any of them again, I find myself actually slumping down a little in my seat, wanting to hide. There is really no way to come across as cool in this situation, unless maybe youíre Johnny Depp or a professional hip-hop dancer who can just really tear shit up, which these guys are/can not. But instead of recognizing their limitations and doing some sort of funny self-deprecating jig intended to make the audience laugh, these guys, all three of them, swing for the fence, one of them doing a caterpillar thing on the floor and then kind of mock-dry-humping Banana Girlís shapely leg; another shaking his ass feverishly, as though there happened to be a crazed lobster clamped upon it and he wanted nothing more than to fling the goddamned thing once and for all to the ground; and one of whom insists on placing his hands directly on the B.G.ís satin-coated rump, clenched hands she good-naturedly but firmly removes, so that then he does it againónot, I surmise, out of any belligerence or even horninessóyou just get a sense that this is the closest this guy has been to a pretty girl maybe in his entire life and he just canít figure out how to conduct himself. Anyway, eventually the horrifyingly intense and serious dancing coalesces under the cool and expert guidance of B.G. into this much more lighthearted conga line kind of thing, and the guy in the gorilla suit who masturbated with the rubber penis during what was our introduction to the show reappears, joining the line at the end and proceeding to violently thrust his hairy gorilla pelvis toward the ass of the unsuspecting guy in front of him, much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd. Then, finally, a banana is brought to the scene, and as Banana Girl clutches it, she begins, as she lowers herself limbo-style to the floor, to peel the long, firm fruit ó tantalizingly, caressingly, lovingly liberating it from its unjust and slightly painful constriction, and then with appropriate firmness and finesse to insert the denuded yellow spear partially into her similarly exposed vagina. There is widespread mirth and expectant laughter coursing about the room, a kind of collective leaning forward, and then our frenzied trio is invited, one at a time, to take a little bite out of B.G.ís ersatz erection. They comply, each of them, with zero hesitation, and each raises himself with eyes afire, lips sticky and slick with banana mush, fists pumping in celebration of this unforeseen, unforgettable coup. The men rejoin the crowd, conquering heroes. I notice with some dismay that the high-five is not a uniquely American phenomenon. The curtain falls.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/bananagirl.html]
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