The silly, up-in-your face CSU production of “Ubu Roi” presented an engaging, not-your-mother’s theater performance.
Ubu Roi, which is for King Ubu, often times refered as “King Turd,” is from the mind of a 15-year-old French boy named Alfred Jarry growing up in late 19th century France. It tells the story of the clumsy, unattractive and power-hungry Pa Ubu, played by sophomore Jake Cuddemi, and his rise to power in Poland. Ubu, appearing particularly stout, angry and lacking a filter sported a blond side sweep hair style, materialized as a combination of Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter and Donald Trump.
The play itself, although written over a century ago, is presented in a way where it is anything but obsolete. This is evident through the video clips presented on two screens in the theater, posters hanging throughout the space and sly comments made by the actors. Slams are made against the University of Colorado, as well CSU Publeo by calling it the “discount CSU.” The CSU fight song was spoofed, and political comments regarding this year’s election are incorporated.
The play, which was labeled as not appropriate for all ages, combined bathroom humor with sexual themes. Pa Ubu frequently mentioned poop and used farting as a self-defense tatic. Meanwhile, phallic symbols were prominent and ensemble members sat in the corners of the stage referred to as masturbation and sexual intercourse.
One of the best aspects of the play is how it engages the audience on multiple levels. The theater itself creates an intimate setting presenting a unique set. The stage features a small ball pit, two large trampolines and a massive toilet. The audience sits in a single row surrounding the square stage. Actors were constantly moving and interacted with the audience through out the two-hour production. From my seat, a completely naked actor strolled by, just inches away, sporting nothing but a cross body bag. Early on in the performance, Ubu personally asked me if I had a wet wipe to offer him, and unfortunately for him, I did not. At one point in the show, an audience member had a cell phone out and both Pa Ubu and his wife Ma Ubu, played by junior Heather Salyer, personally addressed it and boisterously demanded that it be put away.
The play, at times, seemed a bit over the top silly and random. There were times when the storyline got confusing or lost in the sexuality. There were two parts that left me feeling uncomfortable. The first was when an ensemble member brought an inflatable woman on stage and proceeded to pretend having sex with her. Every time he thrust at her a video game noise went off creating a “points scored” sound. When he was done with her, he put her in the giant toilet and flushed her away. This illustrated the idea that women are for male’s sexual pleasure and that they can be disposed of at a man’s digression. I found this personally offensive. The second instance was when Pa Ubu attempted to punish his wife by having, what appeared to be nonconsensual sex, but the attempt was quickly interrupted by a shift in the scene.
Overall, Ubu Roi was brought together by a talented group of high energy and seemingly fearless actors. There was never a dull moment. If you have yet to stay awake and captivated by a play, then Ubu Roi is for you. However, I think it is important to note that this play is not for everyone. If penises, both real and fake, as well as general nudity cause you discomfort or offense, then this play is probably not for you. If you’re looking for a unique experience brought to you by talented actors and integrated creative technology then Ubu Roi might just be the performance to shake off the midterm stress.