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Review: Wallace Shawn An Unlikely Stud in GRASSES OF A THOUSAND COLORS

The character Wallace Shawn portrays in his 2009 play Grasses Of A Thousand Colors has a penis. And while I'm certain the great majority, if not all of the characters Wallace Shawn has portrayed in his career have had a penis, I mention it here because he talks about it a great deal during the three and a half hour piece.

Actually, he usually refers to it as a dick, but since children may be reading I prefer to write penis.

"Well, yes, of course, my dick is my friend, and actually, my dick is my best friend, and in a certain way, it's my only friend."

I wouldn't estimate the length of said penis, although at one point he mentions that it "extended surprisingly far." And while he doesn't go into graphic detail, the narrative contains several instances when he mentions having masturbated, as well as having sex with all three women involved in the tale. His cat also seems to be enamored with his penis. But it may not actually be his cat.

None of this is meant to shock or titillate the audience. His non-erotic casual discussion of his sex life is actually a major point of the play.

As is customary when Shawn appears in his own works, he plays a friendly, hyper-intellectual, very flawed everyman and his frequent collaborator, director Andre Gregory, mimics his lead's genial presence with a soft and eccentrically amusing production. The outstanding feature of Eugene Lee's set is a long white coach and the players spend much of the time sitting on it or standing near it.

Shawn enters in his usual understated manner as Ben, a futuristic genius who solved the problem of earth's inability to grow sufficient vegetation to feed all its creatures buy finding a way to tweak the digestive system, allowing animals to eat their own kind and, as a result, live healthier than they ever have while being vegetarian. A side-effect, though, is that it makes them very horny. ("Pigs, for example, would frequently have sexual intercourse fifteen or sixteen times every single day. And sometimes they'd engage in different sorts of sexual experimentation that had never been previously observed in pigs.")

This horniness apparently spread to humans who ate the animals raised that way. When Ben first enters, dressed elegantly in a black dressing gown, slippers and cravat, it is part of a presentation where he'll be reading excerpts from his memoirs. Perhaps sensing that he's much older than many in attendance, he shares his memories of a more repressed time when parents felt uncomfortable masturbating in front of their children, and the kids didn't even want to have sex with mom and dad.

Eventually we find that it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature, but not before Shawn talks about his sexual exploits with his mistress (a bouncy and funny Jennifer Tilly), his wife (a scattered Julie Hagerty) and a new friend (sweet Emily Cass McDonnell). And yeah... the cat.

While the play balances amusing and thought-provoking moments, there isn't enough significant content to justify the lengthy three acts. Anticipating that viewers may need a bit of replenishment by the second intermission, we're invited to partake in free chocolates, nuts, juice and hard boiled eggs, which was rather thoughtful.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Wallace Shawn; Bottom: Emily Cass McDonnell, Julie Hagerty, Wallace Shawn and Jennifer Tilly.

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