Le Petomane: Anatomy of a Fartiste
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., June 22, 2001
Le Petomane: Anatomy of a Fartiste: Sweet Toot
through June 30
Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min
It might be hard to imagine that a story about a man who breaks wind for fame and fortune could be called "sweet," but this Tongue and Groove Theatre original musical about Joseph Pujol, written and directed by David Yeakle, combines good humor, fun song, bawdy dance, and just enough ribaldry to make for an engaging, if somewhat long, late night of theatregoing. This production, first aired in shortened form at this season's FronteraFest, returns here in a full-length version.
The subject of Yeakle's musical, the famed Pujol, discovered early in his life that he had a gift for making all sorts of sounds from out of his anus. From bird and animal calls to simple melodies and orchestral arrangements, "Le Petomane," as he called himself, created a variety act of his finely tuned rear end, amazing spectators at Paris' Moulin Rouge around the turn of the last century. (Utilizing a method of "breathing" air in through his sphincter Pujol could create his sounds sans smell -- how perfectly modern: all the entertainment value with none of the noxious gases.)
Yeakle makes good use of the cabaret motif for his production, aided by Kari Perkins' excellent costumes and moody lighting by Elizabeth Doss and Jennifer Rogers. Amiable Can-Can era showgirls and a talented musical combo linger onstage to maintain the pleasant mood. Robert Pierson plays Pujol, striking that famous, slightly bent pose with index finger raised (as if to discern the direction of the, er, wind) as he entertains with his arse. Pierson is as charming as the rest of the charming cast, exuding quiet confidence that his path to success is behind him, so to speak. As Monsieur Zidler, manager of the Moulin Rouge, Michael Stuart is amusingly wry and amazed at the "discovery" of Le Petomane, although not without a little bite when he is crossed.
The subtitle, "Anatomy of a Fartiste," indicates that this production is as mock-educational as it is entertaining. Much time is spent dissecting just how Pujol's musical bottom functions. This leads to some very funny sketch comedy in which Jenni Rall and Ellen Kolstö lead the audience through a pseudo-medical explanation of Pujol and his musical sphincter.
"Much time" may be the single thing that detracts from this colorful musical: Writer-director Yeakle lets almost every scene, and some of the songs, continue way past usefulness, and often at a snail's pace. Jokes, while good, tend to wear, and scenes feel like they'll never end. Mark Stewart's monologue, for example, in which he attempts to emulate the great Pujol begins with charm, but then continues past the point of humor. Some judicious use of the standard cabaret "hook" could help restore the sweetness of the tale.