Theater archives

Cooking With Cowboys


According to a well-regarded etiquette manual, “Broiled or fried chicken should be held with the fork in the plate while the meat is stripped off the bones with the knife. If the chicken is not greasy, the diner may hold it in his left hand against the plate while he strips the meat off with the fork.” Radiohole and collaborator Joe Silovsky, the creators of the deliciously barbarous Radiohole Is Still My Name, have not read this etiquette manual. Or any other. Ever.

This homage to the spaghetti western (it results in more of a parsley-and-Budweiser western) features a queasy-making central banquet in which the four performers, without benefit of utensils or napkins, devour a whole chicken, its garnish, and several cans of green beans. Beneath a glowing sign advertising “Norton’s Frickin’ Disco Chicken Lickin’ Haven,” bones and beer fly in an orgy of consumption. Those seated in the front row, you are forewarned.

Of course, Radiohole has always been a theater of low-tech excess, of delirious waste. Too many record players, too many lights, too many words, too many layers of costume—a stage littered with props and fluids. Shows don’t end so much as dissipate. If this messy and nearly fearless company uses a dry cleaner, I quail to see the bill.

The piece begins as Eric Dyer (wearing a union suit, bowler hat, and chaps), Maggie Hoffman, and Erin Douglass arrive in “the American West, a strange land, beautiful and savage.” Soon Hoffman lifts her skirt, Douglass extracts a breast (the costumes, incidentally, are very clown-school bordello), and Dyer’s flaccid penis emerges to join the general oscillation. Saltshakers and drumsticks also dance in the naughty-bits ballet.

Significantly, guest performer Silovsky’s anatomy doesn’t make an appearance. Rather he arrives onstage pedaling a kiddie bike tricked out with Christmas lights and a disco ball. Slower, sweetly awkward, he and his toy-theater interludes play out at a different pace. It’s a lovely contrast, a cool compress soothing a sweat-soaked brow. For the first time in memory, a Radiohole piece includes pauses—intentional ones.

But fret not, the show’s still frantic enough to offer several gun battles, radio-controlled tumbleweeds, Guy Debord readings, an exploding outhouse, and, as ever, free beer. However, behind the gross-outs and disarray there is a rigor in the scripting and in the performances. They’ve taken a deconstructed fuck-up of a western and contrived to make it alarming, surprising, and very nearly profound. Though Dyer may eventually declare, “There’s no such thing as the West,” I am heartily glad there is such a thing as Radiohole. Radiohole Is Still My Name may be woefully unhygienic; it is finger-lickin’ all the same.