Two notable Bwog editors showed up to the ADP house at 9 pm last Friday, unsure what to expect from the “independent, sexy, jazzy, experimental play” we had learned about via posters on campus social media. We were there to see Cowboy Mouth, a play by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard, performed by a group calling themselves the Sti Cazzi Players.
Bwog editors headed up the ADP staircase, cold beers in hand, and took a seat on the floor, surrounded by other appreciators of the independent arts. Some could synthesize the energy of the room as Raunchy Sexual Grunge. It was fantastic. Anticipating the start of the show, we saw the two actresses on stage, laying in a bed together on what was supposed to be an old hotel mattress. The spotlights were on, the stage was set, and the band set the tone of the show. More on that: the band—consisting of Ben Parkhurst, Victor Jong, and Nico Hunter, all CC ‘26—seemed more a part of the show than behind it. They were lighting cigarettes for the cast, and adding appropriate rock and roll energy to the ambiance of the stage. The props scattered across the stage were cohesively chaotic: A pale yellow rotary phone, numerous bottles of hard liquor, a pink feather boa, and a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal.
The play concerned Slim and Cavale, a couple of rock stars/hedonists/aspiring rock and roll saints who roll around together in a hotel room, trading fantasies, sorrows, and enigmatic insults. The actors were also the co-directors: Susannah Yezzi (CC ‘24) played Slim, and Elizabeth Malanga (GS ‘23) portrayed Cavale. Holding a giant taxidermied crow, Cavale also wielded a gun (or maybe it really was supposed to just be a water gun) that was used to hold Slim in ambiguous captivity. Occasionally enjoying his abduction, and occasionally resenting it, Slim alternately flirted with and clashed with Cavale. The two were seen enjoying each other’s company and, frankly, their pain. Cavale would dance spectacularly, Slim would look on in awe, and then the two would lament their futures or the inability to build a dam.
Adorning the wall was a photo of Patti Smith and Sam Shepard, the two co-playwrights of Cowboy Mouth, on whom the characters of Cavale and Slim are supposedly based. Smith’s memoir Just Kids has it that Smith and Shepard wrote the play together in one night, passing the typewriter back and forth. Their photo, hung on the ADP wall, reiterated the night’s purpose as an homage to the wild but lost creative energy of a past generation.
The posters for Cowboy Mouth displayed around campus showed a sketch of a lobster, and we waited for the promised Lobster Man to appear. He entered in a mystical manner befitting the play: Slim and Cavale, bored, decide to order food by telephoning the Lobster Man. From behind the staircase in the corner suddenly emerged a man wearing an impressive papier-mache lobster-shaped helmet. The Lobster Man, played by Conor Spangford (GS ‘23), spoke no words, but instead delivered a box of cereal with solemnity.
Exit the Lobster Man—he returned behind the staircase, where we now realized he had been lurking the whole time. Slim and Cavale continued to tussle and clash and play. Slim’s ambitions are discussed along with Cavale’s childhood trauma, and roleplay as a coyote eating a crow ensues. Finally, bored once more, they decide to call up the Lobster Man again. They discuss what they will do: be nice to him, or mean? Boil him, or put him in a movie? The Lobster Man enters again and finds himself caught in the middle of another fight; he stares out at the audience with the ancient eyes of a crustacean. Slim threatens the Lobster Man’s life; Cavale yells out, “leave my savior alone!” As the music picks back up to symbolize one last absurdist romp, the Lobster Man slowly removes his paper-mache accouterments, and picks up a saxophone. He begins to play a beautiful short song. Then he picks up the gun and puts it to his head, and the play ends as he pulls the trigger.
Overall, this experimental play was fantastically weird, if a little inaccessible. We got the sense that those involved were passionate about their craft and about trying something new. There was very little inside-the-box thinking. Rather, the show seemed like it wanted to just exist within itself. It didn’t want to be defined by what a traditional play should have, but instead, be remembered for its peculiar and intimate nature. As a member of the audience, we felt as though we were witnessing something we should not have been—but in the best way.
Featured image via Hannah’s iPhone