Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Punch's Progress

Another night of Fringe Fest brought another excellent show. This one was called Punch's Progress: A Pulcinella Story and concerned the infamous Pulcinella himself. Having lived in Naples for several years, I had a faint memory of the Pulcinella imagery but felt that I needed a real Neopolitan with me to truly appreciate it. Thus I invited my friend Veronica that I went to high school with while living there but who now lives just a few miles away in Alexandria.

The venue was a far cry from my previous Fringe Fest experience and from the very first scene I knew the show was going to be 180° different. For starters, it was a one man show created and performed by Aaron Cromie, a big-hitter from the Philadelphia theater scene. He came out dressed in the typical Pulcinella fare and spoke completely in Italian, at least for the first scene. He introduced his imaginary family while cursing quite prolifically, most of which I could still understand despite having not spoken the language for quite some time. Eventually he came to see that the audience didn't speak Italian and switched to American English and spoke as such for the rest of the show.

He then gauged the "moral barometer" of the audience through a series of dirty limericks, the filthiest of which went as follows:

I'm told of a Bishop of Birmingham,
Who buggered young boys while confirming them,

To roars of applause,

He tore down their drawers,

And pumped the Episcopal sperm in 'em.

At this point, there was no mistaking that the show was about the one and only Pulcinella, the true representative of the working man's humor. What followed was a series of acts that highlighted Pulcinella's contribution to comedy, including a show about Punch and Judy and ending with the classic standup comedian. It was during this part of the show that the audience was invited to tell jokes of their own which made it even more enjoyable.

This show explored not only the character of Pulcinella, but also the origin of the 'dirty joke' and why this type of humor has survived to this day despite the enormous pressures to be politically correct. In a sense, Pulcinella represents the facet of ourselves that will laugh at anything no matter how inappropriate it is.

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