downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 42 | March 2 - 8, 2007

Cabaret

“The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The”
Thur. – Fri. at 6:30 and 9 p.m., Sat. at 9 p.m.
Through March 17
3LD Art & Technology Center
80 Greenwich Street @ Rector Street
(212-645-0374 3leggeddog.org)

The curse of describing ‘Renaldo’

Photo by Jeff Morey
Aldo Perez in “The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The”

By WILL McKINLEY

Halfway through a preview performance of “The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The,” the bizarrely entertaining new show at the 3LD Art & Technology Center, I wrote the following in my reporter’s notebook:

“Renaldo puts a cigar out on his maid’s face, as he strums a guitar and serenades a rubber chicken hanging from a fishing pole. Then he drops his trousers and reveals that he is wearing a pair of frilly ass-less panties. Then his valet starts playing the bongo drums.”

At that point I stopped writing and closed my steno pad. Really, what more was there to say?

“This show defies description,” says Aldo Perez, the downtown icon and composer/playwright/star of “The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The,” in a phone conversation a few days later. “It deals with death and violence, sex and the body, religious pomposity and meaninglessness. It’s a fun show.”

I don’t know about the rest, but he’s right about the fun part. Remember that time in college when you experimented (only once) with mind altering substances? This is the show you should have gone to that night.

I had a great time at the subversive multi-media pipedream that is “The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The,” but I still had no idea what the show was really about. So I sat down with Victor Weinstock, 3LD’s Managing Director, in search of an explanation.

“If you’re having fun then you’re understanding the show,” says the director, an Edward Albee protégé who spent two decades in his native Mexico City translating, producing and directing Albee’s work. “Don’t try to find hidden messages, because they’re not there. And don’t take life too seriously because you’re going to die anyway.”

While I appreciate Weinstock’s uplifting guidance, his job is to create the art and my job is to describe it. So here goes:

The performance begins with a 3LD staff member who thanks us for coming to see a restored print of a long-lost silent film from 1927. Dixie cups filled with free popcorn are distributed as the movie begins.

The star of the picture is the gap-toothed aristocrat Renaldo The (Great? Magnificent?), sporting a penciled-on moustache and Silent Era white greasepaint, applied with a trowel. Unbeknownst to Renaldo, his chambermaid (Jenny Lee Mitchell) and valet (Richard Ginocchio) are in love and plotting the demise of their evil employer. The maid stabs Renaldo, and a riot of avant-garde imagery explodes from his chest.

Suddenly, the movie screen falls to the ground and the three main characters step through the fourth wall and into our world. For the next hour, Renaldo — the emcee from hell — sings songs, plays the guitar and spouts hilariously inscrutable non-sequitars such as, “Please give me an opportunity to lust at you. I want your kidney.”

The maid and the valet remain almost entirely silent and deadpan, communicating through broad facial expressions, pantomime and cartoonish sound effects of crying babies, farm animals and bad porn. After a fast-paced pastiche of music, comedy, video, sound and falling Bibles, the crew re-hangs the screen, Renaldo finally dies and the movie fades to black.

I think that’s what happened. But I could be wrong. Director Weinstock is amused by my confusion.

“It’s really a very simple story,” he tells me. “It’s a murder, but it’s not a mystery. They kill him and we see what happens in his head as he’s dying and resurrecting.”

Simple right? But is it a play, or a film, or a musical performance, or a piece of experimental art? Or all of the above?

“We don’t want to label it,” Weinstock says. “It’s a cabaret show with multi-media elements. And it’s an homage to Dada theater and the silent cinema and the chance that those early filmmakers gave themselves to experiment with the media.”

“Real life is messy,” explains Perez, who created the Renaldo character eight years ago. “And this piece is messy. So what do you call it? How do you define it? It’s messy.”

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