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A CurtainUp Review

The Gods Are Pounding My Head! (AKA Lumberjack Messiah)
By Jenny Sandman

Even a dumb lumberjack knows when the big heart of the world breaks. --- Jay Smith
Charlotta Mohlin as Maude, T. Ryder Smith as Frenchie and Jay Smith as Dutch.
Charlotta Mohlin as Maude, T. Ryder Smith as Frenchie and Jay Smith as Dutch. (Photo: Paula Court )

It's that time of year again. Richard Foreman's latest, The Gods Are Pounding My Head! (AKA Lumberjack Messiah) is running at St. Mark's Church and all's right in the world. But this one is a little different from his offerings in the past few years. It's sadder, more elegiac, and it's sparer, both physically and metaphysically.

The stage is comparatively bare unlike other Foreman shows which are typically filled with detritus. Foreman fans will find that The Gods Are Pounding My Head! has fewer props and much less stage decoration than they have come to expect. Consequently, the space feels less cluttered and so does the script -- without a sensory barrage and hardly any overt phallic symbols or sexual innuendoes.

The set is counterbalanced by a locomotive on one side and a large slide on the other, with very little in between. What about the subtitle? The axes the actors carry and the red checked flannel wall covering are the only visual lumberjack references.

There are hints of Greek Orthodox influences in the costumes and props. The minimal lines andr sound cues leaves the audience plenty of space to consider each verbal clue.

This new play does feature the trademark Foreman humor: at one point T. Ryder Smith cries out, "My eyes are burning like two fried eggs on a hot griddle"--and lo and behold, out come two fried eggs on a hot griddle, to his dismay.

As Foreman puts it, the lumberjacks, Dutch and Frenchie--played by Foreman regulars, the above mentioned T. Ryder Smith and Jay Smith-- "suffer from a broken heart,". They are joined by newcomer Charlotta Mohlin, discovered by Foreman in a coffee shop near St. Mark's Church, as Maude, The lumberjacks rail against the "pancake people," those modern souls stretched thin by too much information. These people will "break the heart of the world," as well as the already broken ones of the lumberjacksn.

Smith and Smith are old pros at performing Foreman's unique characters, but Mohlin seems to have an innate gift for Foreman-speak as well. All three are captivating, the men slightly more so with their verbal acrobatics.

Although last year's King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe! was widely perceived as a political statement, The Gods are Pounding My Head! feels more important somehow, more introspective. Perhaps it's a statement on modern ennui. Since Foreman has declared he's leaving the theatre to concentrate on film, it's his s swan song. As Foreman himself says in one of the sound cues, "The action is elsewhere." As gloriously confusing as any of Foreman's shows, The Gods are Pounding My Head! indeed chronicles the broken heart of the world.

Given that this may be the last Foreman production to see, his followers won't want to miss it. Those unfamiliar with his work may want to check out CurtainUp's reviews of his past productions:
King Cowboy Rufus Rules The Universe
Bad Boy Nietzsche
Hotel Paradise
Maria del Bosco/
Now That Communism is Dead, My Life Feels Empty
Panic! (How to Be Happy)

Written and directed by Richard Foreman
With Jay Smith, T. Ryder Smith, Charlotta Mohlin, Calvin J. Alden, Theresa Buchheister, Matthew Hunter Griffin, Ben Horner, Chris Mirto, and Stephanie Silver
Music & Lights by Richard Foreman
Costume Design by Oana Botez-Ban
Running time: One hour and ten minutes with no intermission
Ontological-Hysteric Theater at St. Mark's Church, 131 East 10th Street at 2nd Avenue; 212-533-4650. Tickets $15-25.
01/06/05 through 04/17/05
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on January 16th performance
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