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BY SCOTT STIFFLER | TENDER BUTTONS: OBJECTS ROOMS FOOD Virtually impenetrable if taken literally — but quite possibly sublime if you can abandon the impulse to nail down a specific message — “Tender Buttons” has been inspiring raves (and rants!) ever since Gertrude Stein answered publisher Donald Evans’ request for a play with this “beautiful and befuddling text.” That’s how Van Reipen Collective describes the work. After four years after of mulling it over (first by forming a band, now as a stage adaptation), they’re no closer to a comprehensive decoding than when they started — but as the collection of words chosen for their complimentary sounds and rhythmic possibilities celebrates its 100th anniversary, they’ve found their bliss by embracing the notion that this three-part piece “does not make one single bit of sense. It makes sense in a hundred ways all at the same time.” Acted and directed by overlapping members of the collective, this five-hour project is performed in three installments (self-contained nights that stand on their own, we’re assured).
“Objects” is a darkly comic operetta for 12 performers, in which acts of love and betrayal take place inside a human aquarium whose warring inhabitants include an AWOL soldier and his amphibious fiancée. The dining room drama “Food” has its guests sitting on bottomless chairs, as a chicken (and a man in a chicken suit) are stripped bare. “Rooms” presents the psyche as a series of shifting physical spaces in which the dreams and memories of two women address matters of war, solitude, wonder, desperation, companionship, and mysticism.
Through Oct. 19. Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 3 p.m. “Objects” is presented Oct. 2–5. “Rooms” is presented Oct. 9–12. “Food” is presented Oct. 16–19. At Theater for the New City is (155 First Ave., btw. 9th & 10th Sts.). For tickets ($15), call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net. For info on the presenting artists: VanReipen.org.
SO INTO IT: THE “LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS” EDITION The incredibly specific pop culture knowledge possessed by Anne Rodeman and Damian Bellino makes those “Big Bang Theory” guys seem like ill-informed wannabes. The fact that they developed their obsessions in an era when comic conventions didn’t garner national press and all-out devotion to a particular cause was still something to be ashamed of just makes the “mutual sick fanaticism” of these two in-synch pals all the more heroic. Bellino freely admits spending his childhood in Philly obsessing over Garbage Pail Kids, X-Men comic books, and the board game Clue. Rodeman wrote fan letters to the NBA dream team and love letters to Daniel Stern from her waterbed in Missouri. Now all grown up, they’ve planted their freak flag in the Big Apple, surrounded by other highly functioning pop culture savants.
The perfect conduit for all of this nerdish drooling? “So Into It” is a monthly show in which the hopelessly devoted duo celebrates a beloved obsession, with the help of fellow comedians, writers, and performance artists. October’s topic is “Little Shop of Horrors.” Naomi Ekperigin, Anissa Felix, Chris Tyler and Hannah Rose DeFlumeri join our hosts to deconstruct every film, stage and cartoon version of the comedy/horror (and sometimes musical) story about shy flower shop worker Seymour, whose sickly plant becomes a giant, voracious devourer of human flesh. Special attention is paid to the iconic creation of Ellen Greene, who played love interest Audrey in the original Off-Broadway production and the 1986 screen adaptation (directed by the man behind Miss Piggy and Yoda, a fact they’ll surely mention along with much more obscure trivia).
Tues., Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. at UCB East (153 E. Third St. btw. Aves. A & B). $5, cash only. For info: 212-366-9231 or east.ucbtheatre.com.
LABYRINTH (a dance-play) As Superstorm Sandy approaches, an aging Downtown bad boy’s (sellout!) trip to choreograph a Rockettes number takes a hero’s journey turn — in Mark Dendy’s quasi-autobiographical dance-play retelling of the Theseus myth. “Labyrinth” has Dendy, Heather Christian, Stephen Donovan and Matthew Hardy playing multiple disenfranchised characters representing the personal fears and professional doubts of Athens, Georgia native Theseus — whose midlife crisis is complicated by a series of hallucinogenic events brought forth by his excessive consumption of absinthe and anti-anxiety pills.
Besieged by inner demons and trapped in a Jungian underworld as ugly as the new Times Square, transgender addict/sex worker Pawnie (aka Ghost of East Village Past) offers Theseus a possible path toward redemption, or at least a little wisdom: “You know it’s getting bad when the place you ran away to starts to look like a giant version of the place you ran away from.”
From Oct. 9–12: Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 5 p.m. From Oct. 15–26: Wed.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 5 p.m. At Abrons Arts Center’s Underground Theater (466 Grand St., at Pitt St.). For tickets ($25), call 212-352-3101 or visit abronsartscenter.org.