Tooth and Nail: Plus Tooth 2!

Tongue and Groove Theatre dishes up vaudevillian punk in two odd and hilarious shorts

Arts Review

Tooth and Nail, Plus Tooth 2!

Beerland, through Sept. 29

Tooth and Nail, Plus Tooth 2! is a bit of a departure for Tongue and Groove Theatre, which has stirred a dash of rock into its traditional formula to make vaudevillian punk. Mark Stewart and brothers Craig Matthew Staggs and Chase Staggs collaborated as if they had a tooth and a nail lodged in their frontal cortices, had only one week to live, and were rushing to put together something volatile to perform in front of their friends and family. Their natural habitat would have to be the musical playground for lost children, and for that Beerland hits the nail on the head. It's like the cellar where music and sometimes even theatre festers and grows frantic for ventilation.

Standing because there are few chairs, audience members hold their beers and watch what may be described as a cyclone of two vaguely familiar stories retold on acid. The music isn't exactly punk rawk; it's just the "F-words," three women in white sweat suits with bars spray-painted on them, playing electric guitar, drums, and bass. The actors come out from behind a sheet so thin that we could hear Hilah Johnson say that she had to tape her top to her chest.

The first act is Craig Matthew Staggs' "Tooth," in which any gullible chump who falls prey to the tooth fairy's lie to find a tooth is dubbed "Spider." In an effort to find the tooth, the latest Spider loses his girlfriend, a meek harlot named "Prostitute," to Marteau, a French heel. Meanwhile, in the corner, a bartender named Jesus shines a Lone Star with beer polish. Adriene Mishler's narration of the story is a little obtrusive yet very eerie since she sings with a cheery-faced yet malicious tooth fairy wearing a white bobbed wig and silvery outfit like one of Captain Kirk's android lovers. She teases him by slipping the magic tooth in Spider's pocket. Despite its hallucinatory characteristics, the play does have its message: Spider keeps seeking the tooth, not knowing all the while that he already has it. In the end, aren't we all seeking the tooth? Don't we all have a little tooth inside us?

Up second is Chase Staggs' "Nail." In it, Jim (David Higgins wearing a Dee Snider perm) has been given milk money for mac-'n'-cheese by his scornful significant other, but instead he buys a nail from a mentally challenged derelict in order to plant it into a tree, which grows into a giant land of cigarettes. Meanwhile, a couple – groom in tails and top hat, bride in evening gown – rise from the grave, only to poke and prod each other for having killed themselves in the name of love.

Though there is the electrical soundtrack, most of the "nonmusical" production has sporadic bursts of song. "Tooth 2" is a musical reprise by characters from the previous acts. The choreography plays like a tape loop on fast-forward without the gibberish, although the randomonium might make it seem so.

Both of the pieces are hilarious; each bit or character is a higher level of Marx Brothers-like blind foolishness, leaving you either giggling or appalled or both. A giant who fights like a girl. Arms being ripped off. Groping suggestions. Donkeys stuck in buckets. Does it sound like the very fabric of punk? Perhaps. It certainly makes you want to laugh and rail against the status quo.

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Tooth and Nail: Plus Tooth 2!, Tongue and Groove Theatre, Mark Stewart, Craig Matthew Staggs, Chase Staggs

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