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The Dick And The Rose – Some Say Love, It Is A Flower (Fringe Festival 2012)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 23, 2012

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Make no mistake, “the dick” of The Dick and The Rose (written and directed by Robert Biggs) is, in fact, a dick.  Remarkably, he’s also a cock, of sorts.  Ah, so much to explain, but trust me … it all makes sense in the end – as much as any story like this can make sense.  You see, the seeds of The Dick And The Rose come from disturbing headlines: sad, brutal, tragic headlines that gripped a nation and didn’t make any kind of sense. Stories that didn’t just happen once, but stories that happened over and over again – stories that horrified us all. But on a visceral level, stories that made almost too much sense.  But, enough with the metaphors.  Let me tell you what’s going on here with this particular dick and this particular rose.


The Dick and The Rose begins with the forlorn, mourning wail of a euphonium (I’ll admit, it could have been a Baritone horn) which ripples the specifically tattered curtain and summons forth the players from behind the billows.  A Crone comes forth and sings a bittersweet lullaby – sadly foreboding and gloomy yet in a voice that is gentle, comforting and sweetly mellifluous.

Scenes are announced from the side via the horn soloist “ME” (writer/director Biggs) who becomes the Master of Ceremonies of sorts, though he announces with a removed air and sticks to the side without comment, opinion or narration.  As the story comes to bear and echoes of headline news become obvious it’s clear that Me is reporting the headlines, not much more (excpet of course providing the occasional musical accompaniment or song).

The cock I alluded to earlier is of the rooster variety – the first introduction we have to the main characters is is a lot of “Ta-DA!” and “Whoosh” and cock-a-doodle-doo!!!! and such as the Sleeper (Ron Botting) is urged awake by the crowing and flourishes of the bright, energetic, lively Circus Girl (Caley Milliken) who twirls on point and brandishes a parasol with grace and flair.  Soon there is naughty giggling behind the curtain and not too subtle metaphors as The Dick makes its appearance in the form of a giant … make that GIANT hose which snakes its way through the various holes of the tatters much to the glee and enjoyment of the Sleeper (who is, by golly, wide awake now … but that’s his name).

The lovely Circus Girl, awash in red flounce (a rose if I ever saw one) is captivated by her new lover and with a bun firmly in the oven she sings of how she is enjoying not quite liking him, but liking how he makes her feel.

More twists of the fluttering curtain and soon after some good ol’ fashioned testifyin’ (Holy Moly!) looks like this Rose, thanks to simple eagerness and the natural tunes of life, has birthed a whole bouquet of kids who seem to be blooming up everywhere.  Represented both in human as well as puppet form this brood slowly overtakes the couple,  exerting the most strain on their overtaxed mom whose rose has begun to fade.  Her voice cracks, her melody waivers, and not even the most desperate tango designed to re-woo her man can staunch the smell of sour milk which billows around her and trails behind her like a mist.

With the voices of her children ringing in her head she finds evidence which drives her to the brink of madness … and over it.  The end is shocking – chilling – disturbing … but the matter is handled in a way that is not disrespectful or distasteful.

Ian Milliken as bandleader guides “ministering angels” (Gail Shalan, Kelsey Hogan, Jake Elitzer, Jennifer Vargas,  and Evan Gambardella) through musical numbers which feature homespun instruments such as spoons, the recorder, and simple percussions as well as guitar, accordion and others.  The group appears and disappears fluidly behind their billowing back curtain and all work seamlessly to present this story.  As an ensemble they are moving, passionate, and even funny.

Robert Biggs has tackled a difficult topic and delivered it in a way that makes it easier to examine.  By making The Dick and The Rose full of lively, sometimes moving, sometimes funny songs, and a presentation that lives between mime, clown and performance art, he has created physical poetry which allows the piece to breathe and invites the audience to take their own emotional journey.  Neither Biggs nor the actors are presenting a judgement – merely a set of circumstances and by doing so they open a path to deeper understanding.


Outcast Cafe Theatrix
Writer: Robert Biggs
Director: Robert Biggs
Choreographer: Barbara Allen
An American Gothic Romance with puppets and stubbornly live music. Rakish Man meets Circus Girl. They mate. Make lots of babies. Darkness haunts this sideshow fantasy. Raucous. Bawdy. Lyrical. True. It’s a bumpy ride. Hold on to your heart.
0h 55m   National   South Lee, Massachusetts
Musical   Puppetry
Staycation: Family Vacation   Ride the Rollercoaster of Love
VENUE #12: Cherry Lane Theatre
Thu 16 @ 9:30  Fri 17 @ 4:30  Tue 21 @ 3:30  Thu 23 @ 2  Sat 25 @ 8

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