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Everett Quinton (#110 of 3)

Death Be Ridiculous: A Chat with Etiquette of Death Creator Chris Tanner and Director Everett Quinton

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Death Be Ridiculous: A Chat with <em>Etiquette of Death</em> Creator Chris Tanner and Director Everett Quinton
Death Be Ridiculous: A Chat with <em>Etiquette of Death</em> Creator Chris Tanner and Director Everett Quinton

At La MaMA, the East Village bastion of avant-garde theater that helped consolidate the off-off Broadway theater movement half a century ago, a group of downtown artists have concocted a theater piece that aims to take the sting out of death. The Etiquette of Death (playing through July 1 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre) is the brainchild of painter, collage artist, sculptor, and performer Chris Tanner, whose theater appearances includes work with Mabou Mines and the Wooster Group. The production is directed by Everett Quinton, best known for his work with the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, which was founded by his late partner Charles Ludlum in 1967. Quinton, who was 24 when he joined the Ridiculous in 1976, eventually took over artistic leadership of the company after Ludlum died from AIDS in 1987. The company disbanded a decade later due to financial constraints. Since then, Quinton has pursued a career in acting and directing, appearing in varied fare including Shakespeare, Jacobean tragedy, and the drag sci-fi B-movie spoof Devil Boys from Beyond. We talked recently to Tanner and Quinton about their current collaboration.

Men Behaving Badly: Mistakes Were Made, Ghosts in the Cottonwoods, and Devil Boys from Beyond

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Men Behaving Badly: <em>Mistakes Were Made</em>, <em>Ghosts in the Cottonwoods</em>, and <em>Devil Boys from Beyond</em>
Men Behaving Badly: <em>Mistakes Were Made</em>, <em>Ghosts in the Cottonwoods</em>, and <em>Devil Boys from Beyond</em>

Those who just can’t get enough of ace actor Michael Shannon can now get nothing but him, flying solo for about 93 of the 95 minutes of Craig Wright’s new play Mistakes Were Made. Even better, you get to have both versions of the magnificently tuned-in thesp: the quiet, contemplative, soulful guy and the bug-eyed, frenetic, intense one that has secured his status as cinema’s top dog for disturbed male behavior. Diving way deep into the recesses of his character Felix Artifex, a harried producer juggling a project involving a big-name Hollywood star, a failed relationship, and some unusual dealings with overseas politicos, Shannon band-aids the man’s flaws in Wright’s text, which never seems to know if it wants to satirize Felix or deify him, the whole affair often seeming like a one-act, expanded version of Roy Cohn’s phone barking in his first scene in Angels in America. Also, would any Hollywood star ever want to do a stage play about the French Revolution? Isn’t Wright keeping any tabs on current Broadway? But Shannon is as thrilling as they come, masterfully modulating the tone of the piece to suit his unending skill. Mistakes may have been made in this play’s execution, but its star can never be guilty of such a thing.

Lost Charles Ludlam Films at IFC Center

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Lost Charles Ludlam Films at IFC Center
Lost Charles Ludlam Films at IFC Center

I’d only ever seen the downtown theatrical maestro Charles Ludlam in Mark Rappaport’s interesting but rather obscure Imposters (1980), and he’s hemmed in by that film’s repressed tone, so that the extravagant Ludlam of legend had only been available to me in tales from his theater career, lovingly documented in David Kaufman’s book Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam. This past Monday night, Adam Baran and Ira Sachs continued their Queer/Art/Film series at the IFC Center with two little-shown 16mm silent films by Ludlam, Museum of Wax and The Sorrows of Dolores, which were given a sensitive introduction by Antony Hegarty of the band Antony & the Johnsons. Seen together, these films, treated to ideal musical scores by Peter Golub, have radically enlarged my perspective on Ludlam, just as they have instantly joined, in my mind, the best underground films of Jack Smith while retaining an unusual character of their own.